Messonnier remains the primary respiratory illness official at the CDC and is still employed by the agency, the spokesperson said. But three people familiar with the situation told POLITICO she has since taken time off from the CDC, and some of them called it an unplanned vacation.
Messonnier has not yet responded to a request for comment.
A prominent respiratory disease scientist who has worked at the CDC for more than two decades, Messonnier led the CDC’s early planning for national distribution of coronavirus vaccines.
More recently, the agency has played a leading role in the administration’s handling of the safety concerns surrounding the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Its use was halted nationwide following reports of rare blood clots in a handful of women who received the vaccine. A CDC advisory committee will meet on Friday for the second time in two weeks to discuss whether and under what circumstances the snapshot should be made available again.
But Messonnier first rose to prominence during the Trump administration, where she angered senior White House officials at the start of the pandemic by warning that its impacts could be “severe.”
“It is not a question of whether it will happen but when it will happen and how many people in this country will have serious illnesses,” she said on February 25, 2020, triggering a decline in the stock markets then as fears of a pandemic grew.
Messonnier clashed with the Trump administration over these comments, leading the administration to halt its regular press briefings and appearances with the White House coronavirus task force. Former President Donald Trump threatened to fire her and publicly rejected her terrible projections.
Messonnier’s long public silence was supposed to end when President Joe Biden took office and worked to put more scientists at the forefront of the pandemic response. But she also had differences with Biden officials, according to a person familiar with the discussion.