Top doctors and scientists at the leading U.S. public health agencies are “frustrated, exasperated and alarmed” about the direction of the agencies they work for, according to the authors of a Substack post published last week.
They’re also embarrassed — about “bad science.” And many are leaving.
“It’s like a horror movie I’m being forced to watch and I can’t close my eyes,” said one senior official with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “People are getting bad advice and we can’t say anything.”
The comment was one of many culled from calls and text messages between officials and the article’s co-authors, Marty Makary M.D., M.P.H., and Tracy Beth Høeg M.D., Ph.D.
Makary and Høeg said the officials who spoke to them agreed to be quoted — but only anonymously, for fear of professional repercussions.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are plagued with “low morale” and “high turnover,” officials told Makary and Høeg.
“At the NIH, doctors and scientists complain to us about low morale and lower staffing: The NIH’s Vaccine Research Center has had many of its senior scientists leave over the last year, including the director, deputy director and chief medical officer,” they wrote.
And it’s no better at the CDC, they said:
“The CDC has experienced a similar exodus. ‘There’s been a large amount of turnover. Morale is low,’ one high-level official at the CDC told us. ‘Things have become so political, so what are we there for?’ Another CDC scientist told us: ‘I used to be proud to tell people I work at the CDC. Now I’m embarrassed.’”
Officials complained the heads of their agencies “are using weak or flawed data to make critically important public health decisions, that such decisions are being driven by what’s politically palatable to people in Washington or to the Biden administration and that they have a myopic focus on one virus instead of overall health.”
One CDC scientist told Makary and Høeg about the shame and frustration within the agency over what happened to U.S. children during the pandemic.
The scientist said:
“CDC failed to balance the risks of COVID with other risks that come from closing schools. Learning loss, mental health exacerbations were obvious early on and those worsened as the guidance insisted on keeping schools virtual. CDC guidance worsened racial equity for generations to come. It failed this generation of children.”
The CDC also ignored natural immunity, according to some officials who declined to be named. “The vast majority of children have already had COVID, but this has made no difference in the blanket mandates for childhood vaccines.”
By mandating “vaccines and boosters for young healthy people, with no strong supporting data, these agencies are only further eroding public trust,” they added.
“I can’t tell you how many people at the FDA have told me, ‘I don’t like any of this, but I just need to make it to my retirement,’” one official told Makary and Høeg.