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NIH chief, surgeon general vow 'science alone' will guide vaccine

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NIH chief, surgeon general vow 'science alone' will guide vaccine
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, appears Wednesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions  Committee hearing on the safety of vaccines. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo

Sept. 9 (UPI) -- National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Wednesday told the Senate that approval of a COVID-19 vaccine will be based on science alone.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, Collins and Adams each responded to a question by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., by stating that political pressure will not play a role in any decision on when or whether to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for use by the public.

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"I can't say strongly enough that the decisions about how this vaccine is going to be evaluated and assessed are going to be based on science," Collins said. "That can be the only basis upon which this decision is made. Otherwise the public would not be expected to trust us.

"Science and science alone will be the way this decision is made, or I will have no part of it," he said.

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"There will be no shortcut," Adams said. "This vaccine will be safe, it will be effective, or it won't get moved along. And when a vaccine is approved or authorized by [U.S. regulators], I and my family will be in line to get it."

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Their testimony came after Sanders urged the two health officials to join him in telling President Donald Trump to "get out of science and let the scientists do their job."

Trump has repeatedly pushed for a quick vaccine timeline, which has alarmed some health experts who worry he's pressuring regulators for premature approval to gain a political advantage before the Nov. 3 election.

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"We'll have the vaccine soon, maybe before a special date," Trump said Monday. "You know what date I'm talking about."

The hearing, titled "Vaccines: Saving lives, ensuring confidence and protecting public health," came as scientists across the globe race to develop and test a vaccine to battle the novel coronavirus.

The pandemic has sickened at least 6.3 million people in the United States and killed nearly 190,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Earlier in the hearing, Collins noted that as drugmakers such as AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna and Pfizer race to conclude late-stage clinical trials, safety is not being sacrificed for speed.

"Efforts to shorten the timeline from bench to bedside, but still achieve a safe and effective vaccine, have been accomplished by eliminating down times and assuming the costs of at-risk manufacturing," he said.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said Tuesday a vaccine likely won't be available until late this year at the soonest. AstraZeneca said Tuesday it had paused a late-stage clinical trial of its vaccine candidate after one of the human test subjects developed an unknown illness.

COVID-19 pandemic alters life in New York City

Mannequins with face masks and designer clothing fill a window at a Diane Von Furstenberg store in New York City on September 8, 2020. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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