Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told host Michael Patrick Leahy on Tuesday morning’s edition of The Tennessee Star Report – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – that “every part of the Department of Health and Humans Services including even the CDC [Centers for Disease Control] will be complying with the executive order and the OMB’s directive” banning critical race theory training at all federal agencies.
OMB Director Russel Vought issued a directive on September 5 saying, “The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions.”
Here is the complete transcript of that interview:
Leahy: Good morning, Secretary Azar. Thanks for calling in.
Azar: Hey, Michael. Thank you very much. I’m delighted to be with you. I apologize if I am a minute or two late. I just got off the phone with President Trump who asked me to give you his greeting and to all of your listeners and wishing all of you well.
Leahy: Terrific. Your timing was perfect and thanks for that greeting from President Trump.
Let me begin with this, Secretary Azar. There was a report yesterday at the National Review that a unit of the Centers for Disease Control – that’s an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services – will be conducting a “critical race theory” training this fall in defiance of the President’s recent executive order against such trainings. Have you seen that report?
Azar: Michael, I haven’t seen that report but I can assure you that every part of the Department of Health and Human Services including even the CDC will be complying with the executive order and the OMB’s directive about such training. I don’t know the context of that. It’s possible there was something pre-funded and pre-contracted before the directive. But I can assure you that we will be in 100 percent compliance with that directive.
Leahy: So if it was pre-funded and apparently started last week and it’s a 13-week program on critical race theory at one of the units [of the CDC], and it’s at the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, will it be continued or be canceled?
Azar: Let me take a look at it because I don’t know about it at this point. But we’ll dig into that and I’m going to do whatever the director thinks we ought to do and what our legal options are. But obviously I’m fully supportive of where our administration is on this type of stuff.
UPDATE 1:45 pm:
A little more than three hours after Leahy’s interview with Secretary Azar, OMB Director Vought tweeted “this training is being cancelled immediately.”:
— Russ Vought (@RussVought45) September 15, 2020
RETURN TO ORIGINAL STORY, published at 1:15 pm:
Leahy: Terrific. We’ll follow up with you on that.
Now you are in town here in Nashville today right? Tell us what you are doing.
Azar: Absolutely. Yep. So I’m going to be visiting Smile Club Direct. I’m really focusing on how the private sector is helping so much with the coronavirus response. So I’m going to Smile Club Direct to tour their manufacturing facility where they actually converted over their 3D printers to produce over 7,500 face shields per week as part of our coronavirus response.
Then I’m going to be over at the Vanderbilt Medical Center where they are conducting some of our critical vaccine clinical trials as well as convalescent plasma clinical trials. So I’ll be meeting with leaders and maybe even seeing some patients there.
Leahy: Wow. That sounds like you got a busy day here, Secretary Azar. My question to you is, you mentioned the vaccine. Can you give our audience on where we stand as a country with vaccine development?
Azar: Absolutely. So thanks to President Trump’s historic leadership and creation of Operation Warp Speed we are deploying the entire power and muscle of the US government. Secretary Esper, the DOD, and I have partnered together to run really, this is like the Apollo project kind of thing. We put the whole US government behind an effort.
And the results have just been just dramatic in terms of the impact. So within days, we had a vaccine candidate and within six weeks it was in initial human trials. Four and a half months later that candidate is in phase three of the final stage of the corona trials. We now have three separate vaccines in the final stage of clinical trials with over 30,000 people that will be in each critical trial. Some of the largest vaccine trials in history to prove safety and effectiveness.
We’ve got three more that we’ve invested the addition to those that will be entering phase three soon. dramatic progress. It’s so good that I am able to tell you that I feel that it is very credible we will have in the high tens of millions of doses of FDA gold standard vaccine by the end of this year. And many 100’s of millions of doses as we enter into next year.
Leahy: Well that’s pretty significant news. How long has that information been out there?
Azar: So I’ve been telling folks that I think the probabilities are with us on this because of the President’s genius on this that we would place investments with multiple candidates. And we are not compromising on any safety standards. We are doing everything by the book. When a drug company is doing a vaccine trial they are going to do one part of the trial see the results and wait till they invest any money into the next stage of the trial.
We have the power of the US government behind us so what we are doing is we plan all of that out and don’t miss a day of delay so we are able to race forward and do everything you would do in a normal vaccine program but do it a lot faster than a drug company normally could. And here’s the other thing, at the same time, we are doing something completely unprecedented.
We are as we speak manufacturing millions of doses of the vaccine even pending the development and FDA approval. By the time we get to FDA approval, we’ll actually have tens of millions of doses possibly of vaccine that we have produced that are ready to roll. that’s unprecedented but we are the government and we are able to take that financial risk to make that happen.
Leahy: I guess your point is that faster doesn’t necessarily mean less safe?
Azar: Michael, that’s a very important point. I want your listeners to understand that we are not cutting corners on safety and efficacy. The clinical trials that we are running under Operation Warp Speed are exactly the same clinical trials that would produce the exact same results under any normal timeline. We are just making sure we are moving as quickly as possible and not wasting any days because of financial risk. The FDA will hold everything to the same standard that they normally do.
Leahy: I think you hear in the mainstream media the people that hate Donald Trump they are claiming to the contrary well, just the mere fact that you are speeding the process up means it’s less safe. Please give us a final comment Secretary Azar.
Azar: I do get concerned about how they play into that anti-vax movement. We are doing everything by the book. The President has said we are going to do it by the book. I’ve said it. The FDA commissioner has said it. I want to just reassure your listeners that we are driving forward. But it’s incredible progress, Michael.
I am so hopeful and optimistic about the future with what the President has done on vaccines and also with the next generation. We’ve already delivered therapeutics REndesevior, convalescent plasma, steroids. We are going to keep developing more therapeutics and get these vaccines. We have such a bright future ahead. We just have to be smart in the months right now to bridge to that moment.
Leahy: Secretary Alex Azar of Health and Human Services thanks so much for joining us today. Have a great time in Nashville today.
Azar: Will do. Delighted. Thank you.
Listen to the full second hour here: