The nation's former top vaccine official warned Congress on Thursday that there will be unprecedented consequences if more is not done to combat the coronavirus.
"If we fail to improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged," Rick Bright, the former head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, told lawmakers. "There will be likely a resurgence of the COVID-19 this fall, and it'll be greatly compounded by the challenges of seasonal influenza. Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history."
Bright served as the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until last month when he was transferred to another post.
He filed a whistleblower complaint claiming leadership at the Department of Health and Human Services ignored his warnings about a potential shortage of critical medical supplies and that he faced retaliation for refusing to make "potentially harmful drugs widely available," like hydroxychloroquine — touted by President Donald Trump, without proof, as a coronavirus treatment.
"I believe part of the removal process for me was initiated because of a pushback that I gave when they asked me to put in place an expanded access protocol that would make chloroquine more freely available to Americans that were not under the close supervision of a physician and may not even be confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus," said Bright.
In a statement, HHS said it is "reviewing the complaint and strongly disagrees" with Bright's allegations.
President Trump attacked Bright before boarding Air Force One.
"I don't know him. I never met him. I don't want to meet him. But I watched him and he looked like an angry, disgruntled employee who, frankly, according to some people, didn't do a very good job," the president said Thursday.
The federal scientist said in his opening statement the country can defeat the virus — but must unite first.
"Working cooperatively with our global partners, we can and will succeed in finding a cure for COVID-19, but that success depends on what we do today," said Bright. "We will either be remembered for what we did or for what we failed to do to address this crisis."