Dr. Marion Gruber, the director of the FDA’s Office of Vaccines Research and Review, along with her deputy, Dr. Philip Krause, submitted their resignation notices last week. They believe that the Biden White House has been prematurely pushing for Americans to receive a third Covid immunization (the “booster”) prior to a formal FDA approval of the additional dose. That makes Gruber and Krause well-deserving of Pain-2-Power People of the Week honors.
Gruber has been with the agency for 32 years. She has offered service to the country as a scientist, serving in various capacities, since 1989. Marks was Chief Clinical Officer of the Yale New Haven Hospital Cancer Center before joining the FDA in 2012.
Whatever you think of vaccines for COVID (the number, the timing or whether they should be given at all), when two scientists quit their coveted positions because they can’t countenance what they perceive as potentially putting Americans at risk by rushing to inject many millions of us with a third shot, they’re showing a willingness to endure pain to do what they feel is right. It isn’t easy to speak your truth to power. In this case it might mean being jettisoned from the inner circle of government science. It might mean that companies which aren’t looking for scientists to make waves when data looks “good enough” to some, but not good enough to them, won’t be so interested in hiring them. Going with the flow seems like a job requirement for more and more positions these days.
Gruber and Krause resigned, anyhow. They seem to understand that enduring pain, in the service of integrity, is an inevitable part of being powerful as a human being. It is, in fact, inescapable. At points in life, we have the “easy” path and the “difficult” path before us. When the difficult path is also the one of your personal truth, you must take it or diminish yourSELF.
Mind you, neither Gruber nor Marks are actually “stick in the mud” kind of scientists. Marks, for one, was instrumental in establishing Operation Warp Speed, the partnership between corporations and the federal government designed to remove unnecessary administrative hurdles in the way of drug discovery and dissemination to the public. So, when he resigns because he feels that the White House is strongarming the FDA to get in line and get a medication into people before it would seem wise, you know that something may be amiss.
I am not saying that booster vaccines are bad. I don’t know. I am applauding two scientists willing to say that they don’t feel comfortable that the scientific evidence and public health rationale behind a third dose of the vaccine are clear and that they don’t appreciate being pushed to say that they are.
Gruber and Marks obviously know that personal gain doesn’t justify rolling over, where the health of millions and millions of Americans is concerned. They know that personal gain doesn’t justify rolling over where the sanctity of scientific inquiry is concerned. You’d think that would be the case for every scientific researcher or public health administrator or pharmaceutical company CEO. But it isn’t.
I hope that Dr. Marion Gruber and Dr. Philip Krause continue to contribute to viral research and drug development in another forum. We sorely need them. They know science. They know government. And they clearly know that the painful path is sometimes the good and decent and smart and empowering one.
Dr. Keith Ablow
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