Top health officials told Congress on Wednesday they will not let politics override science in the push for a coronavirus vaccine, amid fears that campaign pressures are eroding public confidence in the effort.
“Otherwise, I’ll have no part of it,” National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told the Senate Health Committee.
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams said there “will be no shortcuts.”
“This vaccine will be safe, it will be effective, or it won’t be moved along,” Dr. Adams testified.
He said his own family will be “in line to get it” once it is available.
They offered their assurance amid widespread fears that Election Day will morph into a deadline for federal regulators who must sign off on the shots before they reach American arms.
President Trump is floating the idea of an October “surprise” even as medical experts and administration scientists say it may take until the end of the year to secure sufficient data on safety and efficacy of lead candidates in Phase-3 trials of 30,000 people each.
Also Wednesday, Dr. Adams said the federal government will use every lever it has to offer the eventual coronavirus vaccine free of charge to all Americans.
“I will give you a very direct answer: Yes, as surgeon general of the United States, we will use every tool we have to make sure cost is not an obstacle,” he told Sen. Bernard Sanders, Vermont independent, who reminded the officials that taxpayers had shelled out billions for the vaccine candidates’ development.
“I share that 100%,” Dr. Collins said.
Officials testified as AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company, said it was forced to pause Phase-3 trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate because of a suspected adverse reaction.
Dr. Collins referred to a New York Times report that said the British participant was found to have transverse myelitis, an inflammatory syndrome that affects the spinal cord and can be caused by viral infections.
“I don’t have any other details than that,” Dr. Collins told Sen. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican, who inquired about the participant’s condition.
It’s unclear if the condition is linked to the vaccine trial or not, so the company is investigating.
Sign up for Daily Newsletters