WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Senators questioned two of President Trump’s closest coronavirus response advisers Wednesday amid an escalated political debate about the effectiveness of a fast-tracked vaccine.
“Vaccines are safe,” U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams told the Senate Health Committee. “Vaccines are effective.”
That’s the surgeon general’s guarantee as the U.S. enters a flu season on top of a pandemic and a presidential election.
However, Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, questioned Adams about the president’s campaign promise of a COVID-19 vaccine before the election.
“We need vaccine confidence,” Murray said. “That’s really important, and political interference can be a huge detriment to that, so can misinformation.”
“I’m telling people to focus on the process over the politics and the people because the process is what will assure us that these are safe,” Adams said.
The CEOs involved in the development of the country’s six vaccines said they won’t put one on the market until the FDA deems it safe. Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, hopes that commitment converts skeptical Americans.
“We’ve already lost 190,000 people,” Collins said. “We could prevent many more deaths and yet people are afraid to use it. We can’t let that happen.”
Collins told lawmakers proof of this focus on safety came this week when one of the companies in late-stage clinical trials suspended its work to investigate a participant’s reaction to the vaccine.
“Will we still have enough vaccines?,” asked Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-TN.
Alexander wondered how setbacks like this could impact the country’s goal of producing hundreds of millions of vaccines by the end of year.
“The reason that we’re investing not in one but six different vaccines is because of the expectation that they won’t all work,” Collins said.
When one does, Adams said state-licensed pharmacists will be able to administer vaccines to patients three years and older.