It turns out that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was not as unified on the notion of pushing vaccine mandates as it initially seemed.
Come December 1, the NIH’s main bioethics department will host a live-streamed roundtable session over the ethics and practicality of vaccine mandates. Leading the charge will be Dr. Matthew Memoli, who runs a clinical studies unit within Dr. Fauci’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).
Memoli, who has served at the NIH for 16 years and recently received an NIH director’s award, both opposes vaccine mandates and has declined the coronavirus vaccine, arguing that they should be reserved for vulnerable, elderly, and obese Americans.
“I think the way we are using the vaccines is wrong,” he said to Dr. Fauci in an email on July 30.
Regarding the existing vaccines, Memoli reportedly argued that “blanket vaccination of people at low risk of severe illness could hamper the development of more-robust immunity gained across a population from infection,” per the WSJ.
The virtual roundtable will be just one of four ethics debates at the NIH this year and will be “accessible to all of the NIH’s nearly 20,000 staff, as well as patients and the public.” David Wendler, the senior NIH bioethicist planning the session, said that vaccine mandates have become a “hot topic at the NIH.
“There’s a lot of debate within the NIH about whether [a vaccine mandate] is appropriate,” Wendler told the WSJ. “It’s an important, hot topic.”
Exactly how many scientists within the NIH support Memoli’s position remains unknown, but current data shows that roughly 88 percent of the NIH’s federal employees “were fully vaccinated at the end of October.” Detractors of Memoli assert that pushing natural immunity over vaccines would be a “terrible idea.”