Anthony Fauci’s mismanagement has left “a broken agency for his successor,” writes medical-school professor Marty Makary in Newsweek. “After 54 years at the NIH, tomorrow marks Dr. Anthony Fauci‘s last day in office as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)…Dr. Fauci’s agency failed to promptly fund key research during the pandemic. That research would have abruptly ended many of the COVID controversies that divided our country” and saved lives. Fauci failed to uncover key discoveries made by researchers in foreign countries, such as that steroids cut deaths from the coronavirus by one-third, and that Vitamin D can reduce deaths from COVID. The role of Vitamin D in saving lives from COVID was only conclusively proved in a study last month, two years after the pandemic began.
Makary notes that a study of NIH funding published in The British Medical Journal “found that in the first year of the pandemic, it took the NIH an average of five months to give money to researchers after they were awarded a COVID grant.” Such delays cost lives, and left the public ignorant about key issues:
Consider the question of how COVID spread—was it airborne or spread on surfaces? (Remember all those people wiping down their groceries?) It lingered as an open question without good research for months, as Fauci spent hundreds of hours on television opining on the matter. Finally, on August 17, 2021—a year and a half after COVID lockdowns began—Dr. Fauci’s agency released results of a study showing the disease was airborne….The announcement….came 18 months too late.
Imagine if, in February 2020, Dr. Fauci had marshaled his $6 billion budget, vast laboratory facilities, and teams of experts to conduct a definitive lab experiment to establish that COVID was airborne. On this question and many others throughout the pandemic, our problem was not that the science changed—it’s that it wasn’t done.
NIH funding for COVID research was also erratic. The NIH spent almost $1.2 billion on long COVID research, but virtually nothing on masks, natural immunity, COVID in children, or vaccine complications. Ironically, the NIH spent more than twice as much on aging research as it did on COVID research in the first year of the pandemic….A randomized controlled trial is the gold-standard method to establish a drug’s effectiveness. Yet remarkably, for COVID, we still don’t have randomized trials for so many drug recommendations, including the new bivalent vaccine, COVID vaccine boosters in young people, the optimal vaccine dosing interval, and even the antiviral drug Paxlovid in vaccinated people. More disturbing, our country has been deeply divided for years about whether to mask children [due to a lack of a proper study].
Because the NIH moved at glacial speed, most of our COVID knowledge came from overseas. The critical discovery that steroids reduce COVID mortality by one-third came only after European researchers did a randomized trial that Fauci’s agency should have commissioned quickly. Similarly, a conclusive study showing that Vitamin D reduces COVID mortality, published last month, arrived two years too late….
The NIH’s disheveled COVID response is a window into a bureaucracy that has underperformed for decades. With obvious biases and blind spots, our nation’s top research institution has long hindered research progress in important topics, from food as medicine to the role of general body inflammation in disease….
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the most widely circulated medical journal, recently reported its most-discussed articles of 2022. The top three articles were on the discovery of mRNA vaccine particles in breast milk, myocarditis after COVID vaccination, and a study I led at Johns Hopkins on the durability of natural immunity. None of the three were funded by the NIH—all were topics downplayed by Dr. Fauci and other public health officials.