Merck Hires Ex-CDC Chief Gerberding To Run Vaccines Unit/ NPR

verbatim from National Public Radio:

… [Gerberding] came to the CDC in 1998, and was credited with smoothly handling the media after the mysterious anthrax attacks that followed the World Trade Center attack.

Merck is one of the largest vaccine makers in the world; Gerberding will be overseeing a $5-billion-a-year business starting in late January…

Gerberding, a long-time advocate for vaccines, has some potholes ahead of her. Merck has caught flack for aggressively pushing its new and expensive Gardasil vaccine… Sales of the vaccine have slipped recently–falling 22 percent to $311 million during the third quarter.

Earlier this year she was attacked for encouraging people to get vaccinated against the new H1N1 virus at the same time she was a consultant for Edelman, a public relations firm with lots of Big Pharma clients, including Merck. [No wonder she ignored illegal conflicts of interest in CDC’s vaccine experts–Nass] And Merck itself has come under criticism from within the public health community for pushing its expensive new HPV vaccine for children…

As head of the agency from 2002 to 2009, Gerberding oversaw a not-so-popular reorganization of CDC management, and led the agency through some high-profile crises, including SARS and several food-borne outbreaks.

And from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Gerberding:

Gerberding’s six years leading one of the nation’s most trusted institutions were marked by numerous controversies, from allegations that she allowed politics to interfere with science to concerns that her strategic decisions incapacitated the agency’s ability to respond in a public health crisis.

… for much of her tenure, many CDC employees lacked confidence in her vision for the agency. Just 48 percent of CDC staff said they had a high level of respect for the agency’s senior leaders, according to results released last year of a federal survey of government employees.

Last year, congressional investigators concluded the CDC failed “in almost every respect” to protect Hurricane Katrina’s victims from dangerous formaldehyde fumes in government-provided trailers. And Gerberding was accused of playing politics by refusing to reappoint the director of the agency’s worker safety division —- a man widely respected by business leaders, labor unions and lawmakers.

Gerberding drew fire from Democratic lawmakers in 2007 when she delivered testimony to Congress about the health effects of climate change that had been censored by the White House.

In 2003, Gerberding launched a massive reorganization of the CDC that many employees say plunged the nation’s 911 system for public health into turmoil and caused an exodus of key scientific staff.

In December 2005, five former CDC directors sent Gerberding a highly unusual joint letter warning that the agency was in trouble in the wake of her reorganization. They were alarmed by the departures of critical staff…

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