CDC reassigns official who drew spotlight for pandemic warning

Messonnier remains the top respiratory disease officer with the CDC and continues to be employed by the agency, the spokesman said. However, three people with knowledge of the situation told POLITICO that they had since left the CDC and some of them described this as an unplanned vacation.

Messonnier has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Messonnier, a noted respiratory disease scientist who has been with CDC for more than two decades, led the CDC’s early planning for the nationwide spread of coronavirus vaccines.

The agency has more recently played a prominent role in the administration’s addressing of safety concerns related to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Its use was halted nationwide after reports reported rare blood clots in a handful of women who received the shot. A CDC advisory panel will meet for the second time in two weeks on Friday to discuss whether and under what circumstances the shot should be made available again.

But Messonnier first came to prominence during the Trump administration when, at the beginning of the pandemic, it angered senior White House officials by warning that its effects could be “severe.”

“It’s not about if this will happen, but when it will happen and how many people in this country will suffer from serious illnesses,” she said on February 25, 2020, triggering a stock market slump as fears of a pandemic increased .

Messonnier clashed with the Trump administration over these comments and caused the administration to suspend its regular press conferences and appearances on the White House’s coronavirus task force. Former President Donald Trump threatened to fire her and publicly denied her terrible projections.

Messonnier’s long public silence was to end when President Joe Biden took office and sought to get more scientists to the forefront of the pandemic. However, according to someone familiar with the discussion, she also had differences with Biden officials.

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