FOIA’d Emails Reveal Highest-Level Leaders at White House, HHS, CDC, NIAID, AAP All Knew COVID Vaccines Linked to Myocarditis, Yet Publicly Covered Up Findings.
DailyClout received the third, 131-page release of documents from Attorney Edward Berkovich’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The FOIA request stated: “I request emails sent by and received by Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, Sherri A. Berger, and Kevin Griffis (all of whom are CDC personnel) on dates beginning February 1, 2021 through May 31, 2021, containing the word myocarditis.” Astonishingly, the emails reveal that the most senior of leaders, all the way up to the White House, knew about heart damage linked to mRNA vaccines yet colluded behind the scenes to conceal this side effect from the American people.
Approximately 60% of the production is redacted. In a letter that accompanied the documents, the HHS FOIA office gave its reasoning:
“The Office of the Secretary [of HHS] conducted review 94 pages of responsive records. After a careful review of these pages, I am releasing 52 pages, we have found that it is reasonably foreseeable that disclosure would harm an interest protected by one or more of the exemptions to the FOIA’s general rule of disclosure and/or that disclosure is prohibited by law; therefore I have determined to withhold portions of three pages, pursuant to Exemption (b (6) of FOIA (5 U.S.C. §552).
Additionally, CDC is withholding portion of 37 pages, to include 37 pages in their entirety pursuant to Exemptions (b)(5) and (b)(6) of FOIA (5 U.S.C. §552). Exemption (b)(5) protects inter-agency or intra-agency memoranda or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency. This exemption protects documents that would be covered by any privilege an agency could assert in a civil proceeding. These privileges include, among others, the deliberative process privilege, the attorney-client privilege, and the attorney work-product privilege. In this instance, the process privilege applies.
FOIA exemption (b)(6) permits a federal agency to withhold information and records about individuals in ‘personnel and medical files and similar files, the disclosure of which would constitute a clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy.’ The definition of ‘similar files’ has historically been broadly interpreted to include a wide variety of files, and the United States Supreme Court has held that Congress intended the term ‘similar files’ to be interpreted broadly, rather than narrowly. I have analyzed these records and find they meet the threshold requirement of this exemption. Additionally, I have reviewed and weighed the public interest in disclosure of this information against the privacy interest in nondisclosure and found that the privacy interest outweighs the public’s interest in disclosure.”
In the heavily redacted Health and Human Services (HHS) emails from March 2, 2021, through May 28, 2021, we see:
- Ian Sams, former HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, COVID Response and current Special Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor and Spokesman for the White House; Abbigail Tumpey, then Associate Director for Communication Science for CDC’s Public Health Infrastructure; Rochelle Walensky, MD, CDC Director; and Dana Meaney-Delman, MD, CDC Lead, Maternal Immunization and CDC Chief of Infant Outcomes Monitoring Research and Prevention Branch, Fellow of the American College of Gynecology working together to craft a “Myocarditis Email” that minimizes the relationship between COVID mRNA vaccines and myocarditis.
- A template for “Weekly Cabinet Affairs Report” with the heading “MEMORANDUM FOR THE CABINET SECRETARY.” “Cabinet Affairs” seems to refer to President Joe Biden’s Cabinet, of which HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra is a member. The template mentions “POTUS,” President of the United States, repeatedly, and the section of the template on COVID-19 includes the headings:
- Significant activity for consideration to raise to the attention of POTUS
- Past Week Accomplishments and Setbacks/Obstacles
- Requests for White House Collaboration
- Next Week – Upcoming Events / Tasks /Developments
- Admiral Rachel Levine, MD, Assistant Secretary for Health, HHS, writing to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Walensky, after speaking with the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Section on Pediatric Cardiology, and questioning the existence of the known link between myocarditis and COVID-19 mRNA vaccines just one day after the CDC published “Myocarditis and pericarditis following mRNA COVID-19 vaccination” about the link between them.
- Anthony Fauci, MD, then Director of National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID); Janet Woodcock, MD, then Acting Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and now FDA Principal Deputy Commissioner; Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, MD, United States Surgeon General; Dr. Levine, Dr. Walensky, David Kessler, MD, Chief Science Officer for COVID-19 Task Force, HHS; Marcella Smith, MD, , COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force Chair; and Loyce Pace, MPH, HHS Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs, with Sean Mccluskie, HHS Chief of Staff; Lisa Barclay, HHS Deputy General Counsel; Ian Sams; Sherri Berger, CDC Deputy Director for Policy, Communications, and Legislative Affairs/Chief Strategy Officer; Patricia Conrad, NIAID Special Assistant to the Acting Director; Julia (Julie) Tierney, JD, Chief of Staff of the FDA; Sarah Boateng, MHA, HHS Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health; Max Lesko, JD, Chief of Staff, Office of the Surgeon General; White House COVID-19 Response Team; Sherice Perry, then Senior Advisor, COVID-19 Equity Task Force and now White House Senior Advisor to the Director; and Kimberly Espinosa, HHS Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation collaborating about a meeting with HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra regarding India where mention(s) of myocarditis is redacted.
- James Baumberger, Senior Director, Federal Advocacy, American Academy of Pediatrics, sending AAP News article, “Pediatricians should report cases of heart inflammation after COVID-19 vaccination,” to the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, who forwarded it to the HHS Assistant Secretary for Health and CDC Deputy Director for Policy, Communications, and Legislative Affairs/Chief Strategy Officer.
In the following email excerpts, you will see that people at the highest levels of the White House, HHS, CDC, NIAID, and AAP knew in early 2021 about the association between COVID mRNA vaccines and myocarditis, crafted messages to downplay the connection between the two, and sometimes outright lied to the public about the causal relationship that they discussed in private about between the shots and heart damage.
On May 14, 2021, Mr. Sams emailed Ms. Tumpey and Dr. Walensky with the subject, “what do you think about this?” and included an attachment, “Myocarditis_V4.docx.” Dr. Walensky then forwarded it to Dr. Meaney-Delman. The draft/edited email about which they were communicating read:
Subject: For Awareness: Investigating Monitoring Report of Myocarditis After Vaccination
In recent weeks, there have been reports CDC is aware of rare reports of myocarditis occurring after COVID-19 vaccination, including in Europe, where the EMA recently XXXX. and CDC is aware of these reports and continues to monitor available data investigating these reports.
Myocarditis is the inflammation of the heart muscle and pericarditis is the inflammation of the lining outside the heart. In both cases, the body’s immune system is causing inflammation in response to an infection or some other trigger. While myocarditis can be serious, it is frequently mild and self-limited.
As part of COVID-19 vaccine safety efforts, we have been closely monitoring myocarditis/pericarditis in multiple systems, including the Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) and the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD).
To date, there has not been a safety signal identified in either VAERS or VSD. CDC will continue to evaluate reports of myocarditis/pericarditis occurring after COVID-19 vaccination and will share more information as it becomes available. Healthcare providers should consider myocarditis in an evaluation of chest pain after vaccination and report all cases in VAERS.
CDC continues to recommend COVID-19 vaccination for people 12 years and older.
Thank you” [p. 112 of FOIA production]
Here we see those on the email thread downplaye the connection between the vaccines and myocarditis, removed the fact that CDC is aware of myocarditis reports post-vaccination, and emphasized that CDC is “monitoring” instead of “investigating” the reports.
On March 2, 2021, Michael J. Beach, PhD, CDC Spokesperson and Principal Deputy Incident Manager, CDC COVID-19 Emergency Response, sent an email with the subject “COVID-19: CDC/HHS Product Awareness (Not for S/R)—new publication tomorrow and question on Conditional Sail Order Phase 2A” giving a heads-up to key White House, CDC, and HHS personnel:
“FYI. Just a note since I just heard a date for a new publication below. We also have the Conditional Sail Order Phase 2A finishing clearance—-I think HHS is pretty familiar with this plan and its journey through OMB [White House Office of Management and Budget] and the Department. Are we OK to post it when ready?…[Redacted]…Others mentioned this week [redacted].”
Mr. Sams responded with Ms. Berger; Sarah Despres, HHS Counselor for Public Health and Science; Christopher M. Jones, CDC Deputy Director, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; AJ Pearlman, HHS Chief of Staff, COVID-19 Response; Nikki Jo Romanik, then CDC Senior Public Health Analyst and now White House Special Assistant to the President, Deputy Director, and Chief of Staff; and Athalia Christie, Acting Principal Deputy Director, CDC Global Health Center CC’d:
“I have not heard about the new Sail Order update – what the upshot?”
Ms. Berger responded minutes later:
“Jumping in… This was supposed to be discussed at the Principal’s on Monday, but they did not get to it.”
Ms. Berger then forwarded the email to Ms. Espinosa writing, “Per chat.”
Dr. Beach responded to Mr. Sams’ “what’s the upshot?” inquiry, but his response is fully redacted.
AJ Pearlman responded:
“…Based on Sherri’s note, it sounds like this should be in a holding pattern for now; Sarah and I will discuss and then come back to the group.”
None of these emails contain the word “myocarditis” in the unredacted sections. However, it must be in the redacted sections for these for these emails to be included as part of this trove.
On April 27, 2021, Mr. Sams emailed Dr. Walensky with the subject “myocarditis – here is what CDC/FDA responses are right now.” Mr. Sams shared FDA and CDC responses to media about myocarditis:
“Will try to track DOD update after their meeting…
Here is FDA response to media on myocarditis:
To date, FDA and CDC have not seen any new safety signals for myocarditis following administration of any of the authorized COVID-19 vaccines. Post-authorization safety monitoring during the COVID pandemic vaccination program will aim to continuously monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines to rapidly detect safety problems if they exist. Should any new safety signals be identified by FDA or CDC through their safety surveillance, that information will be communicated to the public.
After 220 million doses of mRNA COVID-19 vaccine doses administered nationwide and over 5 million doses administered in the Vaccine Safety Datalink, CDC has not detected any indication of a safety problem with myocarditis or pericarditis. At this point there is no safety signal for myocarditis or pericarditis for COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. monitoring systems.
Myocarditis/pericarditis is an adverse event of special interest for U.S. vaccine safety surveillance of COVID-19 vaccines and is being closely monitored in the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) and in CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD). CDC will continue to closely monitor the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for myocarditis/pericarditis and other adverse events.” [Bolding and italics are in the original.]
On May 13, 2021, Ms. O’Connell emailed Dr. Fauci, Dr. Woodcock, Dr. Kessler, Dr. Smith, [redacted], Dr. Murthy, Dr. Levine, Ms. Pace, and Dr. Walensky with Mr. Mccluskie, Ms. Barclay, Mr. Sams, Ms. Berger, Ms. Conrad, Ms. Tierney, Ms. Boateng, Mr. Lesko, Ms. Perry, and Ms. Espinosa CC’d. In the “Agenda: Meeting on India with the Secretary (5/14/2021)” email, Ms. O’Connell wrote:
“…we’ll use our 10am meeting tomorrow to catch up on India and anything we need to be tracking there. If there is additional time we might use it to discuss today’s announcement on masking. Proposed agenda for tomorrow’s meeting: [redacted].”
Ms. Berger forwarded the email to Henry Walke, MD, CDC Director of the Office of Readiness and Response, with the subject updated to “Flagging: Agenda: Meeting on India with the Secretary (5/14/2021)”:
“…I know you will have the Epi in the daily update, anything else you’ve heard about that RW [Rochelle Walensky] should plan to cover?”
Dr. Walke responded, “Will make sure we have good india [sic] bullets. [Redacted] will have an update later tonight or am.”
“Myocarditis” does not appear in the unredacted sections of these emails and, therefore, must be in the redacted sections.
“We just got a heads up from FDA that CDC is issuing a HAN on myocarditis/mRNA vaccines. I know that Ian is already looped in but if you could make sure we see the HAN when it goes that would be great. Would also love to know timing.”
Ms. Berger added Ms. Tumpey and Dr. Schuchat to the thread. Dr. Schuchat responded:
“Will follow up but believe the aim was for early this week. Just targeting Emergency departments rather than broad advisory.” In a separate email she wrote, “It won’t be tomorrow. Still working this through.”
On May 24, 2021, Ms. Berger emailed Ms. O’Connell, with Dr. Walensky CC’d, and a subject of “Today’s 1:30PM”:
“RW [Rochelle Walensky] will plan to also cover myocarditis.”
Though the myocarditis risk had been revealed to senior public health leaders, it was not until three days later that the CDC issued a public statement on it.
Also on May 24, 2021, Perrie Briskin, Senior Advisor the Chief of Staff at HHS, emailed a very long list of HHS, HRSA, FDA, and IHS employees, including Dr. Woodcock and Dr. Levine with the subject, “Weekly Cabinet Affairs Report – New Template and Guidance”:
“We have received the below guidance and update [sic] template attached from Cabinet Affairs.” [Bold added.]
The email showed a template for updating the Cabinet Secretary. Cabinet Affairs seems to refer to President Joe Biden’s Cabinet. The section of the template on COVID-19 included the headings:
- Significant activity for consideration to raise to the attention of POTUS
- Past Week Accomplishments and Setbacks/Obstacles
- Requests for White House Collaboration
- Next Week – Upcoming Events / Tasks /Developments
Excerpts provided below:
On May 25, 2021, James Baumberger, Senior Director, Federal Advocacy, American Academy of Pediatrics, sent an article titled, “Pediatricians should report cases of heart inflammation after COVID-19 vaccination,” from AAP News, to Ms. Boateng:
“I wanted you to see this AAP News article that was recently published and available to AAP members.”
Ms. Boateng forwards it to Dr. Levine and Ms. Berger.
Also on May 25, 2021, Dr. Levine emailed Dr. Walensky with the subject, “Meeting with Pediatric Cardiologists”:
“I met with the pediatric cardiologists form the American Academy of Pediatrics. They confirmed what we had been discussing in regards to case of myocarditis. The cases are infrequent and mild and seem to resolve without treatment. We discussed their thoughts about the evaluation process with noninvasive studies. They will check on the experiences of others in the field throughout the country. I am arranging a meeting with them including your staff from CDC and staff from the FDA this week. In addition, I have a call with Paul Offit from CHOP [Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia] tomorrow to gather his thoughts. I was on a call with [Secretary Xavier] Bechara and the state and local health officials today as well. They articulated that they would appreciate an update if an official announcement would be forthcoming from the CDC about the cases.” [Bold added.]
Dr. Walensky responded, “We don’t yet have a ton more to share but I do know the SHOs are interested in being looped in…I’ve never met Paul – just an admirer from afar😊. I’m here to help and really grateful for all your [sic] are doing.”
Also on May 25, 2021, Kerry Caudwell, Senior Policy Analyst, CDC/Office of the Chief of Staff, emailed Ms. Berger and Tiffany Brown, then CDC Deputy Chief of Staff, with the subject, “FOR REVIEW; CDC Cabinet Secretary Weekly Report for May 25 – updated” and the attachments, “Template_Agency Weekly Report_5_24_21.docx” and “CDC Cabinet Secretary Weekly Report for May 25, 2021 v2.docx.” She indicated that Ms. Berger and Ms. Brown needed to review the attachments and give input to HHS that day:
“The attachment reflects the template updates that were received from HHS last night (see email below and attachment). Revisions include: [redacted].”
The attached, 10-page CDC Cabinet Secretary Weekly Report for May 25, 2021, is full redacted.
Ms. Brown replied to Ms. Caudwell with “Flag Item: [redacted].” [Bold in the original.]
Ms. Caudwell emailed Clare Pierce-Wrobel, Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff, HHS Office of the Secretary, and Ms. Briskin with the subject, “CDC Cabinet Secretary Weekly Report for May 25,” and an attachment, “CDC Secretary Weekly Report for May 25, 2021.docx.”
The attachment is fully redacted.
In these emails we see high-level HHS personnel sending a weekly report that includes references to myocarditis for review during President Biden’s weekly Cabinet meeting.
On May 26, 2021, Ms. Berger emailed Ms. Tumpey, Ms. Boateng, and Ms. O’Connell with Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, COVID CDC Response Role: Senior Lead, Equity in COVID Data and Engagement and Director of CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, and Dr. Schuchat CC’d, with the subject, “HAN [Health Action Network] Update” and designation of “Importance: High.” Ms. Berger wrote:
“Abbigail is tracking this, including rollout plans – as of 1AM, it is not ready to go. I am letting her know Dawn [O’Connell] and Sarah [Boateng] need an early heads up and to see the language beforehand. Also, per chat, the SHOs [Senior Health Officers?] requested a heads up (even if it is an hour before).”
In response, Dr. Levine emailed Ms. Berger with the subject “HAN” asking to see the HAN before it is final. Dr. Levine wrote:
“…it would be great if we could give a heads-up to the group that Dr. Choucair speaks to on [sic] Tuesdays which includes ASTHO [Association of State and Territorial Health Officials] before it goes live.” Dr. Choucair likely refers to Dr. Wassim Choucair of the Heart & Rhythm Institute in San Antonio.
Minutes later, Ms. Berger responded:
“…initial draft is with Rochelle now, flagging that you’d like to review as well. Abbigail will work with the CDC STLT [state, tribal, local, and territorial health departments] task force to set up a SHO call before it goes out to share the embargoed update with them via telephone.” Embargoed indicates it is off limits to the media.
Ms. Tumpey replied:
“We are still discussing the strategy on this topic. However, after discussions internally and with FDA, we will likely [redacted]. Our team is on a call with the FDA now. I will share the messaging shortly.”
This email thread demonstrates that these leaders carefully constructed so-called messaging and that they communicated “embargoed” updates via telephone rather than on email. This is a common approach when officials do not wish to leave a paper trail.
On May 27, 2021, Ms. Tumpey emailed Dr. Levine; Ms. O’Connell; Ms. Boateng; Mr. Sams; Ms. Roido; Ms. Tierney; Adam Beckman, Special Advisor, U.S. Surgeon General; Alexandria Phillips, Communications Director, U.S. Surgeon General; Ms. Berger; Stephanie Caccomo, FDA Media Relations Director; and Dr. Walensky with the subject, “Myocarditis Materials” and the attachments, “Web Content-Myocarditis-Cliean.docx,” “Myocarditis Email to Clinicians.docx,” Myocarditis Clinical Considerations,docx,” and “Reactive on Myocarditis and Tough QA_Clean.docx.” The email addressed “Dr. Levine and Dawn”:
“Attached are the pieces of the myocarditis content that are still in final review at the CDC. They include:
- Web content for consumers
- Email to clinicians
- Clinical considerations (web content)
- Reactive media statement and tough Q/A.”
The attachments are not included with this tranche of emails.
Sherri Berger responded:
“FYI – there is a 1230PM call with STLT and core PH [public health] partners and we were planning to give an EMBARGOED heads up.” Again, EMBARGOED indicates it is off limits to the media.
Emails arranged for Dr. Levine to be on the 12:30PM call as a panelist.
Ms. O’Connell emailed Ms. Tumpey, Ms. Boateng, Mr. Sams, Ms. Roido, Ms. Tierney, Mr. Beckman, Ms. Phillips, Ms. Berger, Ms. Caccomo, and Dr. Walensky asking if they “all will go at 1?”
Ms. Tumpey responded:
“We were planning to post this between 2-3pm. Received some additional comments/questions from Courtney Rowe [White House Director of Strategic Communications and Engagement, COVID-19 Response Team] that I’m addressing. Any additional concerns?”
Ms. Tumpey then emailed Dr. Levine:
“This is [sic] content posted. Public content: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/safety/myocarditis.html. Clinical considerations: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/clinical-considerations/myocarditis.html.”
This email thread shows that there is a large, coordinated effort at the highest levels to create and get sign-off on myocarditis-related “public content” before it goes live.
On May 28, 2021, Dr. Levine emailed Dr. Walensky with Ms. Boateng CC’d and with the subject “AAP”:
“Rochelle, Thank you for your call. I checked and the AAP did come out with guidance referencing the CDC recommendations and did emphasize continued vaccinations. https://publications.aap.org/news/2021/05/27/covid-vaccine-myocarditis-guidance-052721 I can still check with them about the exercise recommendations for adolescents with mild myocarditis. Please give me your thoughts.” [Emphasis added.] The post at that link is no longer available.
Dr. Walensky responded:
“I’m so grateful for your help here. So, I’m deep in the weeds (and perhaps too much so) but I’d like to understand how they are thinking about this. [Redacted.] Recommendations [redacted].”
Dr. Levine replied:
“I am speaking with the AAP and the Pediatric Cardiologists about these issues tomorrow at 9 am. I will keep you up to date.” [Emphasis added.]
The correspondence continues the next day when Dr. Levine wrote:
“We just got off the phone with the AAP and the Section on Pediatric Cardiology and reviewed these questions. They confirmed the validity and importance of the guidelines. Certainly, myocarditis with Covid 19 is uncommon and even more uncommon with the vaccines – if it is associated at all with the vaccines. However, if myocarditis is diagnosed, with corroborating labs, EKG, echo etc., then they would follow the AHA [American Heart Association] class 1 guidelines as you noted below. They would recommend 3-6 months of limitations on sports as outlined depending on the severity of the case. They highlighted the significant risks that can be associated with adolescent myocarditis and the collaboration of primary care and the pediatric cardiology in working with the young person and the families. In summary, they all felt that the treatment had to be consistent with the recommendations as noted below no matter the precipitating cause.” [Emphasis added.]
Later that day, Dr. Levine emailed Dr. Walensky thanking her for her call and giving her the link – https://publications.aap.org/news/2021/05/27/covid-vaccine-myocarditis-guidance-052721 [now dead] – to AAP’s recommendations. Dr. Walensky emailed Dr. Levine back minutes later, but her comments to Dr. Levine are redacted.
We see here that CDC, HHS, and the other agencies cited above told the public that adolescent myocarditis linked to the mRNA vaccines is “mild” in spite of the fact that the AAP highlighted to Dr. Levine that there “significant risks” associated with teen myocarditis. Unbelievably, the AAP, along with the these public health agencies, continued publicly to recommend COVID mRNA vaccinations for minors despite the significant heart damage risks that they flagged in private communications.
This stunning trove of emails in which public officials are discussing serious harms to teenagers and others dramatically contrasts with the public statements Dr. Walensky and others in these emails made downplaying any risk in messages they sent publicly to parents.
DailyClout previously reported on the initial 472-page production from that FOIA on August 29, 2023, as well as the second, 46-page production. Please see the new emails below.