A former Food and Drug Administration boss has called on the US government to deploy spies to probe overseas public health crises in a bid to quickly identify any future pandemics.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, also told CNBC on Monday that he believes the American public lost trust in its health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control, over their cumbersome initial response to the COVID outbreak in early 2020.
He conceded that while sending spies to monitor potential health threats could lead to all doctors being tarred as potential government secret agents while working abroad, such a measure is necessary to formulate a more nimble response to any future global health crisis.
He also called for a boost in funding to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to better monitor other countries and address inequities in health care.
Gottlieb, who sits on the board at Pfizer, said that these changes would drastically improve the country’s capability to combat another public health crisis, with China accused of lying about the origins of COVID, and frustrating other governments’ attempts to pinpoint its origins.
‘I think going forward we’re not going to just be able to depend on countries voluntarily sharing information,’ Gottlieb said.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb said US intelligence agencies should be tasked with investigating emerging health threats overseas to combat outbreaks and needs more funding to be more effective
President Biden in a statement after an inconclusive investigation into the origins of COVID-19 that his administration’s efforts to unveil the pandemic’s origin ‘will not rest,’ while taking a swipe at China’s lack of ‘transparency’
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has since said he was ‘not convinced’ that COVID-19 developed naturally and called for an open investigation.
‘We’re going to have to go in and have the capacity to collect it and to monitor for these things, and that means getting our foreign intelligence services much more engaged in the public health mission globally.’
He claimed that in the past the US has avoided bringing intelligence agencies into international public health affairs because the CDC was concerned that ‘anyone wearing a white coat overseas would be perceived to be a spy.’
But after the fruitless investigation into the origins of COVID-19, Gottlieb noted that countries are more secretive with the details of their public health issues because they fear being isolated.
After more than a year, the World Health Organization and US intelligence authorities have not reached a satisfied conclusion on the origins of COVID-19.
Three months ago, President Biden ordered a new investigation into the origins of COVID, hoping to conclusively uncover its source.
That has proved inconclusive, amid growing fears COVID may have leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, rather than the initial theory claiming it was transmitted at a wet market in the city that slaughters live animals for food.
Part of the problem is a lack of detailed information from China, according to the Wall Street Journal.
‘If China’s not going to give access to certain data sets, you’re never really going to know,’ an official told the Journal on condition of anonymity since the report is not public.
The basis for the Biden’s investigation stemmed from a report from intelligence agencies saying that they had ‘coalesced around two likely scenarios’, according to Yahoo News.
CDC director Rochelle Walensky claimed that ‘evolving data’ lead to mixed messages surrounding COVID-19 protocols
Gottlieb said that Americans have lost trust in health agencies amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wuhan Institute of Virology – the suspected source of COVID – is pictured
The first theory was that coronavirus spread to humans naturally from diseased animals at a wet market in Wuhan, China.
While the other theorized that the virus was leaked from the nearby Wuhan Institute of Virology, where Chinese scientists were experimenting on the virus.
In the face of China’s reluctance to open up to outside investigators, experts are increasingly open to considering the theory that the virus might have leaked out of a lab conducting bat coronavirus research in Wuhan, an idea once dismissed as a conspiracy propagated by the US far-right.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has admitted that the global health body’s initial probe into Wuhan’s virology labs did not go far enough.
But the WHO’s call last month for the investigation’s second stage to include audits of the labs infuriated Beijing. Vice health minister Zeng Yixin said the plan showed ‘disrespect for common sense and arrogance towards science.’
Amidst the devastation of the deadly spread of COVID-19, Gottlieb thinks that the public has lost trust in its public health agencies due to the mixed and changed messages about the virus and how to combat it.
‘I think coming out of this pandemic, a lot of people have lost confidence in the public health officials,’ Gottlieb said.
‘They felt that guidance wasn’t well informed, it wasn’t well articulated, it wasn’t distributed in a way that we could assimilate it into our lives.’
CDC experts and White House COVID tsar Dr Anthony Fauci have been accused of flip-flopping on a wide array of issues, including mask wearing, booster shots and the origins of the virus itself.
When the inconclusive intelligence report was released, another official said the intelligence community is ‘not necessarily best equipped to sole this problem,’ which they claimed is fundamentally an issue of science.
Inconclusive reports on the origins of COVID-19 and mixed messages surrounding the virus and safety protocols have left Americans distrustful of public health agencies, according to Gottlieb (pictured: Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China’s central Hubei province on May 27, 2020)
Although spy services are ‘positioned to collect on a range of foreign actors’ they are not necessarily poised to dive into global health datasets.
Gottlieb also noted that the pandemic exacerbated the inequities in healthcare specifically affecting people of color, with inconsistencies in public messaging blamed for breeding further mistrust in groups which may already be vaccine hesitant, or downplay the potential risks of COVID.
In the US, black people have died at 1.4 times the rate of white people. American Indians or Alaskan natives, Hispanics or Latinos, and Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islanders also died at disproportionate rates compared to white people, according to the COVID Tracking Project and the Boston University Center for Antiracist Research.
An analysis of CDC data conducted by DailyMail.com found that unvaccinated Americans are most likely to be younger, male, black and living in a rural area.
‘If we’re going to make ourselves more resilient going forward to these kinds of public health crises, we’re going to have to address those inequities and do more to make sure that we’re getting adequate health care to people who have historically been locked out of those opportunities,’ Gottlieb said.