UPDATE: Top vaccine expert reportedly will testify on Capitol Hill

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One of the nation’s top vaccine experts has reportedly filed a whistleblower complaint against President Donald Trump’s administration, saying the White House ignored warnings about the growing coronavirus pandemic.

Rick Bright, who was the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), said the administration didn't believe the virus would spread in the U.S. 
On Tuesday afternoon, Bright's lawyers said he will testify May 14 on Capitol Hill, according to reporter Kaitlan Collins.


In late April, Bright said he was pushed out of his job for wanting to use science to test treatments for COVID-19, specifically the Trump administration's push to get chloroquines in wide use, Maggie Haberman of The New York Times reported.

In the complaint, Bright said he raised alarms about supply chain shortages early on during the coronavirus’ spread. Specifically, he said Dr. Robert Kadlec, assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), did not coordinate senior level meetings back in January as the virus was spreading across China.

Bright said HHS Secretary Alex Azar was also slow to act, and that he was eventually excluded from a meeting on COVID, even though the agenda for the meeting listed him as a participant.

Bright also said the Trump administration rejected his warnings on COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Bright said he “acted with urgency” to address the growing spread of COVID-19 after the World Health Organization issued a warning in January.

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Bright alleges in the complaint political appointees at the HHS had tried to promote hydroxychloroquine “as a panacea.” The officials also “demanded that New York and New Jersey be ‘flooded’ with these drugs, which were imported from factories in Pakistan and India that had not been inspected by the FDA,” the complaint reads.

But Bright said he opposed broad use of the drug, arguing the scientific evidence wasn’t there to back up its use in coronavirus patients. He felt an urgent need to tell the public that there wasn’t enough scientific evidence to support using the drugs for COVID-19 patients, according to the complaint.

Bright also said on Jan. 21 he received an email from Mike Bowen, co-owner and executive vice president of Prestige Ameritech, a surgical mask producer. Bowen allegedly wanted to increase production of the N95 protective masks, and Bright said he publicized those concerns internally.

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For a week, Bright’s complaint said, nothing happened. Eventually, Bowen emailed Bright again, with this message: “I think we’re in deep s#%t.”

Bright has since moved into a smaller role at the National Institutes of Health. He has also worked for the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and as an adviser to the World Health Organization.

Bright's former agency is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and, according to its website, was established to protect the nation "from chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear threats, as well as from pandemic influenza (PI) and emerging infectious diseases."

Congress more than tripled BARDA’s budget in the most recent coronavirus stimulus package. The office has partnered with Johnson & Johnson and Moderna Therapeutics, both of which are developing potential COVID-19 treatments.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.