Yves here. On the one hand, we think it’s important that as many people as possible pile on to criticize the sorry record of Jeffrey Zients as Covid czar. However, the “czar” post in American politics is usually a poisoned chalice, even before getting to the fact that term will like be retired because Russia.
While this site has attempted to be on the forefront of Covid reporting on the actual science (versus “the science”) and policy fronts, we never pretended to have policy influence. By contrast, one has to wonder where these vocal Zients critics have been all this time.
Lambert confirms that (with all due respect to Justice is Global) there has only the most muted and indirect criticism of Zients while in office, and even then not by anyone with clout.
And we are only going from bad to worse, with the downtrade to Brown’s Dr. Ashish K. Jha no doubt reflecting the official Administration posture that Covid is over. As IM Doc said by e-mail:
We have now replaced a lying corrupt Bond villain with a moronic cipher.
I cannot remember a single thing this man has been correct about.
And I will always remember the glee with which he pounced on the unvaxxed.
This is really bad news.
Indeed. He has struck me as a bag of wind since the beginning. Glad to know I was correct.
By Brett Wilkins. Originally published at Common Dreams
Progressives on Thursday welcomed the announcement that Jeffrey Zients will step down as White House Covid-19 czar, with the head of a leading consumer advocacy group accusing him of failing the world by refusing to “challenge Big Pharma’s monopoly control” over lifesaving vaccines.
The New York Times reports Zients, a former corporate executive and director of the National Economic Council, will be replaced next month as White House coronavirus coordinator by Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health and a practicing internist.
Zients has been the target of numerous protests by activists, some of whom called for his termination over his lack of scientific and medical experience, his record as a private equity executive, and his failure to take on Big Pharma during the pandemic.
“Jeff Zients failed and the world paid the price,” Robert Weissman, president of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said in a statement Thursday.
WIN! After months of campaigning, thousands of petition signatures and two vigils at US COVID Coordinator’s Zients house. https://t.co/1GN8RKo58q
— Justice Is Global (@justiceisglobal) March 17, 2022
Johanna Kichton of People’s Action—whose Justice is Global project staged multiple demonstrations against Zients—said that he:
- Dissuaded governors from issuing mask mandates during the current Covid-19 surge;
- Killed the White House’s own [Occupational Safety and Health Administration] regulation that would have provided paid quarantine and isolation for most U.S. workers;
- Failed to address massive shortages of affordable rapid tests and KN95 [masks]; and
- Led the White House’s insufficient approach towards addressing inequitable vaccine access globally by prioritizing corporate handouts and donations.
“All of these policies directly led to the current omicron surge and hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths and infections, in the U.S. and around the world,” said Kichton.
Zients promoted a vision of the US govt that looks the other way while the vulnerable are swamped by Covid, doing one thing (vaccines) more or less right for 65% of Americans. The white and rich, as always, served first and most carefully.
— Zackary Berger (@DrZackaryBerger) March 17, 2022
Public Citizen’s Weissman said that “despite promises that the U.S. would be a ‘vaccine arsenal’ for the world, the United States and rich countries refused to share vaccine technology with developing countries and failed to deliver sufficient vaccines.”
“The vaccination rate among low-income countries is 14%—about one-sixth the rate in rich nations,” he added. “And even those data disguise the extent to which people in poorer countries are receiving less efficacious vaccines.”
Zients refused to pay appropriate attention to global solutions to the global pandemic, because of political concerns or otherwise. And the Zients-led Covid response refused to challenge Big Pharma’s monopoly control, in the U.S. and globally, over technologies that relied crucially on public support. As a result, the United States and other rich countries failed to expand vaccine supply sufficient to meet global need.
“Responsibility for this failure is widely shared among nations, but the United States has a singular leadership role in global health; it has unique capacities and thus responsibilities, and a special duty to lead the world’s response,” he added. “Under the leadership of Covid coordinator Jeff Zients, the United States failed.”
U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) on Thursday called Jha “an excellent choice” and a “highly qualified public health advocate who will lead with reason and compassion.”
Weissman said that Jha “will face major challenges as he takes the helm of the U.S. Covid response, including a misguided perception that the ‘pandemic is behind us.'”
“As a seasoned public health expert and advocate, we look to Dr. Jha to lead the White House effort to fight the worldwide pandemic with far more vision and ambition than his predecessor,” he added.