Complaint Alleges Scientific Integrity Violations by Federal Health Officials

Several statements by CDC and NIH may have misrepresented the results of a study they touted

Today, Protect the Public’s Trust requested the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) investigate possible violations of the agency’s scientific integrity policy by senior officials. The federal watchdog alleged that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) on multiple occasions misrepresented the results of a study on the CDC website and in public appearances.

On August 6, 2021, the CDC issued a press release highlighting a study from Kentucky that, according to several medical experts, appeared to misrepresent the findings of the study. Though the study made no comparison between subjects who did and did not have natural immunity from a previous infection, the headline trumpeted, “New CDC Study: Vaccination Offers Higher Protection than Previous COVID-19 Infection.” The press release also stated the study’s “data further indicate that COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone…”

Several days later, NIH Director Francis Collins, citing the Kentucky study, declared, “Yes, Bret, I can say that” when asked by Fox News anchor Bret Baier if he could “definitively say…the vaccine provides better protection than the antibodies that you get from actually having had COVID-19?” A Harvard epidemiologist declared, “Francis Collins is misleading the public…He falsely claims less reinfections after vaccine than after COVID disease.” Another medical professor decried Collins’ statement as “frustrating.”

In addition to HHS’s Chief Science Officer and Inspector General, PPT addressed its complaint to Dr. Eric S. Lander, Science Advisor to President Biden, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the official selected to convene the President’s Scientific Integrity Task Force. PPT is hopeful OSTP and the Task Force will view these science and public health concerns as an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to the high-minded principles expressed in the President’s Memorandum on Restoring Trust in Government Through Scientific Integrity and Evidence-Based Policymaking.

“Trust is a very precious commodity for public health officials and medical professionals,” stated Michael Chamberlain, Director of Protect the Public’s Trust. “The public’s loss of trust in these officials can have tragic, even deadly, consequences. This is precisely why HHS and its divisions have such strong policies and principles governing scientific integrity and agency communications. But even the strongest policy or commitment to principles does nothing to protect the public’s trust if it’s not enforced. We look forward to HHS investigating this potential violation, correcting the record and demanding its employees be held to the high standards the public expects.”

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