Health Subcommittee Chair Guthrie: “The CDC Needs to Address its Failures with Openness and Humility”
Washington, D.C. — Subcommittee on Health Chair Brett Guthrie (R-KY) delivered the following opening statement at today’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee hearing titled “Looking Back Before Moving Forward: Assessing CDC's Failures in Fulfilling its Mission.”
Excerpts and highlights below:
HOLDING THE CDC ACCOUNTABLE
“Today’s hearing will focus on understanding the scope of what is wrong at the CDC so that we can begin to fix it.
“This is not about villainizing the CDC, it’s about accountability.
“Accountability for children kept out of school, who are dealing with mental, social, and emotional health issues, small business owners who watched their life’s work dry up, for people who lost their jobs because of vaccine mandates.
“The CDC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic created a crisis in confidence in the agency.
“The pandemic made it overwhelmingly clear that the CDC has serious, foundational problems and the roots, in many cases, span multiple administrations.”
RECKONING WITH THE SCOPE OF CDC’S COVID-19 FAILURES
“From the start of the pandemic, it was clear how challenging the novel coronavirus would be to contain, which was made even more difficult because of how underprepared CDC was to respond to the emerging threat.
“No doubt that a virus as transmissible as SARS-CoV-2 was always going to be difficult. But in the earliest days of the pandemic, the CDC’s faulty test kits set us back.
“Without testing we could not effectively slow the spread of the virus when cases amounted to just a few embers.
“People also counted on the CDC to provide timely and clear guidance based on the best available science to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
“Yet, time and again CDC’s guidance failed to meet this expectation and instead consistently issued guidance that lacked clarity and the best available science.
“More consequentially, CDC’s guidance reflected the agency’s preferred policy outcomes or political considerations.
“At its worst, CDC released guidance that was influenced by teachers’ unions and was a significant signal to states that they weren’t fully confident in schools’ ability to return to school safely, despite earlier versions of the guidance suggesting otherwise.
“Our children are paying a terrible price academically, physically, and emotionally for the CDC’s shortcomings.
“Bad science in CDC guidance, when used to justify mandates, destroyed lives.
“CDC public communications on COVID-19 vaccines were just as bad. Simply put, CDC overpromised when it should have known better.
“CDC leadership told the public that vaccines prevented transmission while the agency was receiving reports of breakthrough infections among the vaccinated.
“CDC downplayed the existence of adverse events while it was receiving reports of post-vaccination myocarditis in young men.
“The CDC’s decades of experience running mass vaccination programs should have prepared it to manage the administration of COVID-19 vaccines.
“The CDC knows only 30 to 40% of people get an annual flu shot—that vaccine hesitancy did not just begin with the COVID-19 vaccine.”
THE PATH FORWARD FOR THE CDC
“It is going to be a long road to rebuild this trust—and the agency cannot go it alone.
“Many of the CDC’s COVID-19 failures have their roots in longstanding problems at the agency.
“The CDC needs to address its failures with openness and, frankly, humility.
“I am deeply worried that CDC’s insular, academic culture will prevent it from learning the right lessons.
“Outgoing Director Walensky launched a reorganization of the CDC. Whether it survives her departure is unclear.
“Whether the reorganization would address CDC’s foundational problems is also unclear.
“This committee intends on conducting oversight to ensure the agency gets back on track.
“The CDC still hasn’t provided this Committee with the information needed to independently assess the reorganization.
“As Chairman Griffith noted, a conclusory letter sent to us the night before a hearing isn’t sufficient, but I do look forward to obtaining more details from the agency about this restructuring plan in the coming weeks.”
THE NEED TO AUTHORIZE THE CDC
“I’ll close by noting that Congress is not without blame for the current state of the CDC.
“The CDC has never been authorized, Congress has never—in a single voice—told the CDC what its mission is and is not. That must be fixed.
“This Committee’s majority is committed to working on CDC reform.
“Today’s hearing, Dr. Miller-Meeks’ RFI, and our ongoing oversight of CDC’s reorganization are the first steps towards getting the agency back on track.
“In addition to this work, I look forward to our health legislative hearing next week to reauthorize immediate preparedness and response programs.
“It is critical we come together to assure the American people the federal government is equipped for the immediate response for all types of public health hazards—such as a pandemic, or a chemical, nuclear, radiological, biological or cyber-attack.”