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    Nations Continue to Fight COVID-19 Crisis as Over 2.5 Million People Infected Globally (239)
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    White House officials have allegedly been increasingly frustrated with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in recent months, with Donald Trump appointing Vice President Mike Pence, rather than the health chief, as the White House's main point of contact for the coronavirus task force.

    The White House is mulling replacing Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, according to sources cited by POLITICO.

    Among suggested likely candidates to the position of HHS secretary are coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx, Medicare chief Seema Verma and deputy HHS Secretary Eric Hargan.

    Amidst soaring tensions generated by the coronavirus outbreak and criticism over the official response to it, senior aides have reportedly been blindsided and frustrated with Azar’s role in the abrupt dismissal of Dr. Rick Bright, the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine.

    Pharmacist Michael Witte wears heavy gloves as he opens a frozen package of the potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial, Monday, March 16, 2020
    © AP Photo / Ted S. Warren
    Pharmacist Michael Witte wears heavy gloves as he opens a frozen package of the potential vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, on the first day of a first-stage safety study clinical trial, Monday, March 16, 2020

    At a recent task force meeting, says the outlet, Azar, 52, insisted the appointment of Bright to the National Institutes of Health was a promotion.

    However, the vaccine expert and his team of lawyers released a statement on 24 April revealing that he would soon file a whistleblower complaint, outlining the “retaliatory treatment to which [Bright] was subjected by HHS political leadership after raising appropriate science-based concerns about White House pressure on treatment and vaccines related to the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to Bright’s lawyers.

    Officials are also cited as holding Azar responsible for a spate of media reports that suggested the health chief had urged Donald Trump to act sooner on the coronavirus outbreak in January, but his warnings had been brushed off as “alarmist.

    U.S. President Donald Trump looks down at the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, approving additional coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief for the U.S. economy and hospitals treating people sickened by the pandemic, during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2020
    © REUTERS / JONATHAN ERNST
    U.S. President Donald Trump looks down at the "Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act," approving additional coronavirus disease (COVID-19) relief for the U.S. economy and hospitals treating people sickened by the pandemic, during a signing ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 24, 2020

    Azar himself had dismissed the reports, insisting the President “never once rejected, turned down or dismissed a recommendation”.

    Azar’s style adopted in running the organisation was also supposedly called into question late in 2019, when his feud with Medicare chief Seema Verma became public knowledge, with a POLITICO report on 26 November first shedding light on their rift, allegedly rooted in policy differences over the replacement proposal for Obamacare, drug pricing, and other initiatives, that was acquiring increasingly personal overtones.

    The speculations gathered force after Trump appointed Vice President Mike Pence, rather than Azar, as the White House's main point of contact for the coronavirus task force in late February.

    In a statement released on Saturday, the White House dismissed speculation that officials were considering replacing Azar.

    “The Department of Health and Human Services, under the leadership of Secretary Azar, continues to lead on a number of the President’s priorities. Any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to COVID-19,” said deputy press Secretary Judd Deere.

    HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley resonded to the reports by saying:

    “Secretary Azar is busy responding to a global, public health crisis and doesn't have time for palace intrigue."
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    Nations Continue to Fight COVID-19 Crisis as Over 2.5 Million People Infected Globally (239)

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    Health and Human Services (HHS), HHS, HHS, National Institutes of Health, US National Institutes of Health (NIH), Mike Pence, Mike Pence, White House, White House, Alex Azar
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