Dr. Rick Bright, the ousted director of a key federal vaccine agency and a federal scientist, cautioned that a safe, FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine would “take longer” than the suggested 12-18 month timeline.
“A lot of optimism is swirling around a 12-18 month timeframe if everything goes perfectly. We’ve never seen everything go perfectly,” Bright testified before the House’s Energy and Commerce subcommittee on Thursday. “I still think 12-18 months is an aggressive schedule and I think it’s going to take longer than that to do so.”
Bright is the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority who filed a whistleblower complaint earlier this month, claiming he was dismissed from his position after raising concerns about hydroxychloroquine, an unproven coronavirus treatment that Trump had promoted.
On Thursday morning before Bright’s testimony, Trump tweeted that he thought Bright was a “disgruntled employee” who “should no longer be working for our government.” A few hours later, Trump tweeted, “Vaccine work is looking VERY promising, before end of year.”
But in his opening statement, Bright warned of “the darkest winter in modern history” if the U.S. did not improve its response to the pandemic immediately.
“Our window of opportunity is closing. If we fail to improve our response now, based on science, I fear the pandemic will get worse and be prolonged,” Bright said. “Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history.”
Bright’s testimony came two days after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and three other top health officials testified before the Senate on the country’s response to the virus. Fauci warned that if states reopened too early, there would be “suffering and death that could be avoided” and “an outbreak that [they] may not be able to control.”