National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins and Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams assured senators on Wednesday that the decisions surrounding the development and potential distribution of a coronavirus vaccine will be made based on science, not politics.
With President Trump expressing optimism that a vaccine for COVID-19 could be ready in time for November’s election, Democrats have accused him of infecting the process with political goals. Collins and Adams sought to alleviate those concerns by insisting that if a vaccine is made available, it will be safe and effective regardless of the timing.
“I can’t say strongly enough that the decisions about how this vaccine is going to be evaluated and assessed is going to be based on science,” Collins said in response to questioning from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
Adams backed up Collins’ assertion.
“There will be no shortcuts,” Adams said. “This vaccine will be safe, it will be effective, or it won’t get moved along. When a vaccine is either approved or authorized by the FDA, I and my family will be in line to get it.”
AstraZeneca’s vaccine trial hit a snag after a participant became ill. That trial has been put on hold as the company investigates and determines whether the illness is connected to its vaccine.
Earlier, Collins said that while he does not know when a vaccine will be ready, he believes the nature of the coronavirus leads him to believe it will be more effective than the flu vaccine, which must be taken on a yearly basis.
The CDC recently asked governors to help prepare for possible distribution as early as Nov. 1, in case one of the several vaccine candidates in development is approved in time. Democrats including vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., cast doubt on the effectiveness of any vaccine that may come out before the election. Harris said that she “would not trust Donald Trump” and would have to see verification from another source.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a Virtual National Health Research Forum this week that it is “unlikely” but “not impossible” that a vaccine could be ready before the Nov. 3 election. He has said he expects a “safe and effective” vaccine to be developed before the end of 2020.
Adams announced Wednesday that state-licensed pharmacists are now licensed to administer COVID-19 vaccines to patients aged 3 and above, whenever a vaccine is available.