Rick Bright, a U.S. health official recently ousted from a post key to developing vaccines, on Thursday called a timeline of 12 to 18 months for the creation of a vaccine against the coronavirus “an aggressive schedule.”
“A lot of optimism is swirling around a 12- to 18-month time frame,” Bright told a group of U.S. lawmakers in a hearing. “If everything goes perfectly – we’ve never seen everything go perfectly.”
“My concern is if we rush too quickly and consider cutting out critical steps, we may not have a full assessment of the safety of that vaccine, so it’s still going to take some time,” he added.
In addition, Bright pointed out that no company can produce enough doses of vaccine for the United States or for the world at large.
“We need to have a strategy and plan in place now to make sure that we can not only fill that vaccine, make it, distribute it, administer it in a fair and equitable plan,” he said. We don’t have that yet and it is a significant concern.”
The hearing came after Bright filed a whistleblower complaint last week, alleging he was removed in April as director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for opposing the broad use of chloroquine, a drug frequently touted by the White House as a coronavirus treatment.
Bright said on Thursday that there wasn’t sufficient data supporting the drug and that he’s concerned about its side effects.
“When I spoke with the government and shared my concerns for the American public, that, I believe, was the straw that broke the camel’s back and escalated my removal,” he said in his testimony.
Before leaving the White House for an event in Allentown, Pennsylvania, Trump told reporters that he has watched some of Bright’s testimony.
“To me he is nothing more than a really unhappy disgruntled person,” he said.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who was to travel along with Trump, claimed that everything Bright is complaining about has been achieved.
More than 1.4 million people in the United States have been infected with the novel coronavirus and at least 85,000 of them have died of it as of Thursday afternoon, according to the latest count by Johns Hopkins University.