CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigns – impacts on vaccines, public health

If I asked the general public about the CDC director, or who that person is (Brenda Fitzgerald), I’d get a blank look. It’s not exactly the most prestigious position in the Federal Government, but if you care about vaccines, cancer, infectious diseases, and public health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is probably one of the more important Federal agencies, unless you buy into thoroughly debunked CDC whistleblower conspiracy theories.

Because most Donald Trump appointees to Federal government department and agencies were filled with incompetent, ethically-challenged, science-denying individuals, his appointment of Brenda Fitzgerald as CDC Director was, more or less, taken by the science and medical community with a sigh of relief. She wasn’t anti-vaccine. She seemed to understand the role of public health in the USA. And she was a doctor. Trump could have done much worse, as we’ve seen in other departments.

The anti-vaccine religion has been bigly supportive of Trump because he had shown some proclivity towards the vaccine denier beliefs. But they ended up crying vaccine tears when Trump did the “right thing” (probably the only time I will write that comment with respect to Trump) regarding several public health posts, including the CDC Director and Surgeon General.

Then it all blew up.

CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald resigns

Unique to all of Trump’s appointees, who have what I consider to be ethically fungible views of financial disclosure and conflicts of interest, CDC Director Fitzgerald resigned today because of her financial disclosures and conflicts of interest. After assuming her role at the CDC on 7 July 2017, Fitzgerald purchased between $1,001 and $15,000 of Japan Tobacco, one of the largest cancer-stick, I mean tobacco, companies in the world. She also purchased stocks of pharmaceutical titans Merck and Bayer after being named CDC Director.

I’m beside myself with something between laughter and anger. She bought Big Tobacco and Big Pharma stocks AFTER she took the CDC Director position? Precisely what was she thinking? How did she not think this wouldn’t pass the sniff test of ethical responsibility?

Because of her stock holdings, CDC Director Fitzgerald also had to recuse herself from work in some key fields of CDC operations, such as the opioid epidemic, cancer, and other key areas of public health. It’s obvious that someone in her position could not be very effective if she had to recuse herself from some of the most important areas of public health.

In a public statement, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) called this case:

…yet another example of this administration’s dysfunction and questionable ethics. It is unacceptable that the person responsible for leading our nation’s public health efforts has, for months, been unable to fully engage in the critical work she was appointed to do. Dr. Fitzgerald’s tenure was unfortunately the latest example of the Trump Administration’s dysfunction and lax ethical standards.

Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald resigned because it was the right thing to do. As for the rest of the Trump administration, including the President himself, any other resignations as a result of ethical challenges and conflicts of interest are a fantasy.

What does this all mean?

For the time being, Anne Schuchat, the Deputy Director of the CDC, will become the interim director, a position she held after President Obama’s appointee, Thomas Frieden, resigned. Dr. Schuchat is a career CDC scientist and is a rear admiral in the US Public Health Service Commisioned Corps, a group of dedicated physicians and scientists who serve our country’s public health. I would be overjoyed if she were given the position permanently since her public health views are evidence-based and scientific.

The problem is that Dr. Schuchat, despite her impeccable credentials, will not have the power to stand up to the Trump administration’s moves against science. Brenda Fitzgerald barely was able to do that, and an “interim” CDC Director will be less able to do anything.

Of course, the fake science purveyors of Natural News are beside themselves with their typical clickbait headline – Scandalous CDC director RESIGNS after caught buying shares of vaccine maker Merck while heading the CDC. At least, it’s semi-accurate, although I doubt Merck’s relies upon vaccines when the Brink’s truck backs up to corporate headquarters with gold bars.

To be fair, Brenda Fitzgerald’s shares in these companies were tiny. Her stock shares were so small, that even if she could add a vaccine to the recommended schedule (she can’t, there’s a process to doing it that’s transparent and open), that even if it drove up the price of Big Pharma shares (vaccines are a very small part of Big Pharma’s profits), her overall financial gain may be a few hundred dollars at best. It makes me laugh when people invent these massive financial conspiracy theories.

Fitzgerald should have resigned, don’t get me wrong, not because of potential financial gain, but because someone who is the CDC Director should be ethically pristine – they are responsible for our nation’s (and sometimes, the world’s) public health. I’m pretty sure Natural News doesn’t get that, but they push pseudoscience, so they don’t understand a lot of things.

The anti-vaccine folks will use this story as a claim that the CDC is corrupt, and is pushing vaccines for corrupt purposes. We all know that their secret hope is that some anti-vaccine crusader, like Robert F Kennedy Jr, is appointed to the position. Or worse.

So stay tuned to this channel. We’ll keep you up-to-date with next appointee and their bona fides. Maybe Trump will surprise us with someone with high quality and high standards of ethics. OK, probably not.






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The Original Skeptical Raptor
Chief Executive Officer at SkepticalRaptor
Lifetime lover of science, especially biomedical research. Spent years in academics, business development, research, and traveling the world shilling for Big Pharma. I love sports, mostly college basketball and football, hockey, and baseball. I enjoy great food and intelligent conversation. And a delicious morning coffee!