Top CDC leader to step down

The principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is stepping down from her role, marking the second high-profile departure from the agency in the span of a month.

Anne Schuchat, MD, the CDC’s No. 2 in command, will vacate her role this summer, after serving as a scientist with the CDC for more than 30 years. She has served as principal deputy director since 2015. The news was first reported by Politico and confirmed by the CDC.

“I have enormous gratitude for Dr. Schuchat’s leadership and contributions over three decades, and during this very challenging period for our country,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said in a statement. “I will remain forever grateful that our paths crossed, even for just a short while.”

Longtime senior scientist Nancy Messonnier announced her departure earlier in May. Messonnier led the CDC’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, STAT News reported.

The departures come at a fraught time for the agency, which has faced criticism and praise for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic across the Trump and Biden administrations. 

In recent months, Schuchat clashed with Walensky, a source told Politico. Prior to Walensky’s appointment by the Biden administration, Schuchat was once in the running for the top job as director. 

She was also involved in the CDC’s decision to temporarily pause the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine in April. That decision was sharply criticized for causing confusion over vaccine safety and efficacy after the agency ultimately allowed the vaccine to continue to be distributed.

According to Politico, Schuchat also was involved in internal battles between CDC scientists and the Trump administration, after the Trump administration attempted to interfere with scientific reports, including one she authored.

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