Durbin To NIH Director & Health Officials: Any COVID-19 Vaccine Must Be Proven Safe And Effective And Free Of Political Influence

WASHINGTON – During a Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Services Appropriations Subcommittee hearing today, U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) questioned the Director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, about Operation Warp Speed and how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will assure the American people that any COVID-19 vaccine will be safe and effective given the speed at which vaccines are being developed, and President Trump’s troubling history of anti-science rhetoric and promotion of hydroxychloroquine, despite inadequate evidence of that drug’s safety or efficacy.

“How do we maintain the confidence of the American people of the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine if it appears we are shortcutting the Phase Three clinical trial that is usually required in these vaccine circumstances?” Durbin asked Director Collins.

Director Collins responded that while the NIH and its federal partners are working on an accelerated timeline to develop and approve a COVID-19 vaccine, the data to prove effectiveness and safety may be apparent early on in Phase Three trials, and that the trials will continue after potential authorization to study whether there are long-term effects or the need to require boosters for immunization in the future.

Durbin continued, by emphasizing the importance of the integrity of the vaccine approval process in building public confidence.  Durbin asked the witnesses if any of them, “have felt any political pressure from the White House in terms of the selection of the companies to develop a vaccine, the timing of vaccine development, or the announcement of a vaccine?”

Dr. Collins, Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Dr. Gary Disbrow, Acting Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Authority (BARDA) all answered they had not received such pressure. 

Video of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks in Committee is available here for TV Stations.