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HHS top spokesman Michael Caputo said in an interview on Saturday that he and one of his advisers have been seeking more and more scrutiny of the CDC’s weekly scientific dispatches for the past 3½ months, known as the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report goes. The consultant, Paul Alexander, has repeatedly sent emails to the CDC demanding changes and demanding that the report be put on hold until he can make the edits.
Emails reported late Friday night by Politico describe CDC documents, widely known as MMWR, as “hit pieces on administration”. Caputo confirmed the authenticity of the email.
Emotions echoed by an earlier attack by Alexander, reported in July in The Washington Post, about an MMWR at potential risk to coronovirus to pregnant women. In that email, Alexander also accused the CDC of undermining the chairman. The emails are the latest evidence of how the nation’s top public health agency is under pressure from Trump and his allies, who are reducing the dangers of the epidemic ahead of the November 3 presidential election.
“Often, MMWRs are [issued] For purely scientific reasons, ”Caputo said on Saturday. “But in an election year, and at the time of Kovid-19, it is no longer unanimously scientific. Is political content. ”
Caputo said his findings are based on reviews by Alexander, an assistant professor and health research methods expert at McMaster University in Canada. Caputo placed her at this waterfall to advise her on epidemiology.
Despite the change in MMWR demanded by HHS, the requests accepted by the CDC were “unintentional”.
Alexander “gets involved in productive discussions with scientists open to criticism. They are free to reject them.” I think most of their criticisms are rejected. ”
He said: “Science is disagreement. It must be difficult [CDC] Criticism should be done by an Oxford-educated scientist, who has been published in peer-reviewed journals 67 times. ”
A former administration official with direct knowledge of communications from HHS made a request that all reports be withheld until Alexander could review them in their entirety. On other requests, the CDC “kept its head down” and did not comply and “continued to get into trouble repeatedly” for doing so, the former official said. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to share sensitive discussions.
MMWRs are written by career experts for scientists and public health experts and are considered among the most authoritative public health reports because they provide evidence-based information on a range of health topics. Reports are independent scientific publications that often undergo rigorous veterinarians with multiple drafts to examine data and methodology. The reports are closely kept; Some individuals at the CDC have access right before publication.
The CDC editorial staff that produces the MMWR usually sends a one-paragraph summary to HHS and other CDC officers a few days after publication.
“Whenever they come out with that list, there is a worry [HHS] Some scholars have manipulated politics, ”Caputo said. “that’s my opinion.”
During the epidemic, top officials, including Deborah Birx, the White House Coronovirus Task Force Response Coordinator, and HHS Secretary Alex Azar, wanted to take a “more complete picture” of the CDC’s activity, according to one HHS official. Anonymity condition for sharing internal discussions. The official said that MMWRs were the main focus.
“The agency’s future depends on its ability to disseminate science-based data and recommendations,” the official said. “It is very important to put a political lens on what we say,” the official said. The CDC is not going to do that, the official said. There is no intention or attempt to undermine the president in the publication of CDC reports, the official said, referring to the allegations by Alexander as “an insane notion that is not based on anything.”
The CDC declined to comment on Saturday.
A CDC report that drew special investigation was on hydroxychloroquine. The MMWR urged physicians to follow long-established guidelines for malaria medicine. Trump endorsed the drug as a coronovirus treatment despite scone evidence. The CDC was concerned that the drug was potentially being misused to affect Kovid-19, a disease caused by the virus, and to supply the drug to treat conditions such as rheumatism and lupus.
“Current data on treatment and pre- or postexposure prophylaxis for COVID-19 indicate that the potential benefits of these drugs do not appear to reduce their risks,” the report states.
According to a former administration official with direct knowledge of the efforts, the report was delayed for weeks.
In another example, a report about the spread of coronavirus in a Georgia sleep-away camp was also delayed, the former official said. That report, released on July 31, suggested that children of all ages were feared to have coronovirus infection and could spread to others – an already frightening discussion about the risks of sending children back to school was likely to intensify.
The former officer said, “That report made him very sad.” “But you cannot change the facts.” The report was likely to be delayed, the former official said, to avoid being released around the same time Trump was calling for schools to reopen in person. The former official said that the changes sought were not included.
The tone of Alexander’s email is harsh, the person said, because the CDC ignored his requests. In an email, Alexander wrote to CDC director Robert Redfield that the agency revised two previously published reports that Alexander said mistakenly increased the risk of coronovirus to children and Trump’s pressure to reopen schools Reduced to.
“To me the CDC seems to be writing hit pieces on administration,” Alexander wrote in an email. “The CDC tried to report that as soon as the children are found, it will spread and it will affect the reopening of the school. … very confusing and shame on them by the CDC. Their purpose is clear. ”
The intervention of HHS political appointees into the MMWR process has affected career scientists, who have been frustrated over the months’ inability to fully share and explain information to scientists.