Protecting the Editorial Independence of the CDC From Politics

November 3, 2020, Vol 324, No. 17, Pages 1699-1798


Protecting the Editorial Independence of the CDC From Politics
Sonja A. Rasmussen, MD, MS; John W. Ward, MD; Richard A. Goodman, MD, MPH
JAMA. 2020;324(17):1729-1730. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.19646
Beginning September 11, 2020, media sources reported that political appointees within the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have demanded the ability to review and revise scientific reports on the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).1,2 According to these sources, reviews by political appointees have sometimes led to delays in publication and changes in language in certain reports. Whether this is true is unclear, but these reports are consistent with other reports of the actions of political appointees and their attempts to influence the scientific process.3 As former editors in chief of MMWR, we believe these media reports raise serious concerns that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific reports published in MMWR might have been delayed or altered for political purposes. These concerns threaten the credibility of MMWR, an essential source of information to help counteract the pandemic.