Former CDC director hits back at agency criticism
Former CDC Director William “Bill” Foege, MD, MPH, slammed an unnamed Republican lawmaker and an unnamed Trump administration official for casting doubt on the agency during an address at the ‘A virtual celebration of the 70th anniversary of the agency’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) on Friday.
Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) previously tore the agency apart during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on May 11, saying she had lost respect for the CDC. While in the past, she viewed agency advice as the “gold standard” that she no longer made, she said.
“It pains me very much to see a senator say that she no longer trusts the CDC,” Foege said.
Collins argued that the agency bowed to pressure from teachers’ unions over guidelines to reopen its schools and overestimated the risk of outside transmission of COVID-19 in its reports, which ultimately undermined public confidence and her.
Foege cited the irony of “a politician in 2021, telling us who to trust”, before highlighting another official, this time a “public health member of the White House task force” , who also said “she didn’t trust what came from CDC.”
Although he did not give a name, Deborah Birx, MD, was the former White House coronavirus response coordinator under the Trump administration. She reportedly said in May 2020: “There is nothing in the CDC that I can trust.”
Even when lashing out at the CDC’s critics, Foege said those concerns made him think again and forced him to take another look at the agency and “now belatedly … I wonder if we need the brakes. and counterweight in public health “.
He specified that such a system should be put in place internally and “no [be] something imposed from the outside. We need to re-establish the CDC as the gold standard, not by saying we are the gold standard, but by continuing to prove it every day … and the reputation will return. “
Foege also admitted that he and “people like me” took some of the blame for the mistakes of the past year.
“I kept thinking that the White House task force is going to see the error of what they are doing and they are going to change, because it has always happened in the past, but they did not done. It should not have happened, “he said of the escalating pandemic and hundreds of thousands of deaths in the United States
“By the time I spoke, it was too late,” Foege noted. “Public health has been challenged by political bullies, and we have not responded.”
Foege called for training public health workers in political science and encouraging them to enter politics, “until we have as many public health professionals as we have lawyers in Congress.”
In addition to taking back the reins of public health at the national level, Foege called on the CDC to restore its leadership role in the global community. He has the opportunity to do so right now by becoming a leader in global immunization efforts, Foege said.
“[T]imagine what could happen if the United States ran a program to vaccinate a billion people in 100 days, ”he suggested.