Congress Must Hold the CDC Accountable for Cozy Ties to Pharma
Why won’t congressional investigators force the CDC Director to explain why Pfizer and Moderna’s PR firm is embedded at the agency’s vaccine center?
Congressional leaders with the House Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee will question CDC Director Mandy Cohen  in what should be an interesting hearing on restoring public trust.
The hearing “should” be interesting, because this committee has a long history of holding corporate and government leaders accountable.
However, we have yet to see this committee get any actual explanation for a rash of mistakes and failures during the COVID pandemic.
During her final appearance before Congress last summer, the prior CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, gave false testimony about a study on masks. When two researchers pointed out Walensky’s mistake, a congressional staffer emailed them that the committee would correct the record. “We want the record to reflect the accurate facts for posterity,” the staffer with House Appropriations wrote, “And take this responsibility very seriously as the lack of trust in public health officials is becoming an enormous problem for many reasons.”
Having run congressional investigations for several years, I’m confused why the Energy and Commerce committee has done so little peeking into COVID scandals at the CDC—many of which I have documented during the last couple of years. Congressional staff work long hours and often don’t have the time to look into every problem, but how can the CDC regain public trust when employees with the PR firm for Pfizer and Moderna staff the CDC’s Vaccine Center?
Last October, I discovered that employees with the global PR firm Weber Shandwick are embedded at the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), the CDC group that implements vaccine programs. Weber Shandwick won this multi-million dollar CDC contract back in September 2020, during COVID pandemic’s first year.
A few weeks after Weber Shandwick won the CDC contract, a senior vice president at the firm posted a company blog that disclosed Weber Shandwick clients working on COVID-19 vaccines included GSK, Sanofi, and Pfizer. A special investigation by PR Week reported that Weber Shandwick provided publicity for Moderna’s COVID vaccine.
“So excited to be starting a new role today,” one Weber Shandwick employee wrote on her LinkedIn account. “I’m joining Weber Shandwick as an Account Director supporting a contract I know well, at CDC’s NCIRD!”
Weber Shandwick employees staffing NCIRD help to run the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). After ACIP recommended recommended in late 2021 that everyone over 12 receive a “bivalent” Covid-19 vaccine as a booster dose, Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, warned that ACIP’s advice was made without convincing data.
Despite sending a slew of emails to the CDC—some directly to the CDC Director—I never got an explanation for this obvious conflict of interest.
Senator Rand Paul later sent the CDC a letter, but the agency ignored him. Will the House Committee demand answers?
(TLB) published this article by PAUL D. THACKER via The DisInformation Chronicle with our appreciation for this report
Header featured image (edited) credit: Cohen/Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Emphasis added by (TLB)
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