Science academies sound alarm on political interference

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POLITICO also recently revealed that Trump administration appointees at the Department of Health and Human Services had interfered with weekly scientific reports coming from the CDC and had attempted to muzzle the government’s top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci. Top administration officials involved with the White House coronavirus task force also ordered the CDC to stop promoting coronavirus testing for most people who have been exposed to the virus but aren’t showing symptoms — a change the agency eventually reversed after criticism from public health experts.

The reports of widespread political interference come at a critical point in the pandemic, the science and medicine academy leaders warned.

“Our nation is at a critical time in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic with important decisions ahead of us, especially concerning the efficacy and safety of vaccines. Policymaking must be informed by the best available evidence without it being distorted, concealed, or otherwise deliberately miscommunicated,” McNutt and Dzau wrote.

The science and medicine academies and their sister organization, the National Academy of Engineering, are nongovernmental groups that advise the government. They are currently assessing how to fairly distribute a Covid-19 vaccine after a request from federal health officials to draw up a framework.

The expert panel assembled by the academies is considering priority population as well as health disparities, high risk groups and potential viral hot spots.

“Ending the pandemic will require decision-making that is not only based on science but also sufficiently transparent to ensure public trust in, and adherence to, sound public-health instructions. Any efforts to discredit the best science and scientists threaten the health and welfare of us all,” McNutt and Dzau wrote.

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