House Republicans say NIH, HHS 'stonewalling' on handling of COVID lab leak theory, demand more info

"HHS and NIH are choosing to hide information that will help inform the origins of the ongoing pandemic," reads the letter from GOP lawmakers

Updated: February 3, 2022 - 8:29am

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A group of 21 GOP members of Congress has sent a letter to leaders of the Health and Human Services Department and the National Institutes of Health requesting documents related to the 2014 U.S. government grant awarded to EcoHealth Alliance to conduct research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China – a lab in the Chinese city in which COVID-19 started.

The members continue to seek information on the origins of the novel coronavirus and global pandemic despite apparent stonewalling from the two federal agencies.

"To date, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and NIH have refused to produce any responsive documents or information not previously or immediately thereafter made public through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. This request is urgent as no one disputes the necessity of understanding the origins of the ongoing pandemic," reads the letter to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra and acting NIH Director Lawrence Tabak.

The letter details a February 2020 call that 13 scientists, including Drs. Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins participated, in which they were told by top virologists that the COVID-19 virus may have leaked from the lab and may have been "genetically manipulated."

"It is unclear if either Dr. Fauci or Dr. Collins ever passed these warnings along to other government officials or if they simply ignored them," reads the letter.

Several days following the call, a number of the scientists who had, less than one week prior, warned about the lab leak theory, produced or helped produce a paper – "The Proximal Origin of SARS-CoV-2" – in which the lab leak theory was dismissed. The paper was sent to Fauci and Collins for editing and final approval. 

"It is unclear whether Drs. Collins or Fauci edited the paper," the letter also reads. "It is also unclear if any new evidence was presented or if the underlying science suddenly changed. But it is clear that after speaking with Drs. Fauci and Collins, the authors abandoned their belief COVID-19 was the result of a laboratory leak.".

The request is not the first in which the GOP congressional members have requested information from HHS and NIH related to the origins of COVID. 

"Rather than be transparent with Committee Republicans, HHS and NIH have chosen to hide, obfuscate, and shield the truth," they write in the letter. "This stonewalling is particularly troubling considering NIH’s direct involvement in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the agency’s policy or practice to destroy potentially pertinent documents related to grant making decisions."