Senators updated on fast-track COVID-19 vaccine program

Washington DC

WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — The nation’s crash program to develop a vaccine to protect against the coronavirus has the sci-fi style name of “operation warp speed.”

Thursday, U.S. senators got an update on the all-out effort to identify, test and quickly distribute a vaccine —or vaccines— in world record time.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health says the program is testing and manufacturing promising vaccines.

“We are all in working on this,” Collins said. “We are all optimistic that the goal that we have set to have a vaccine that works and is safe by the end of 2020 will be met.”

U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-MO, raised concerns if the speed will compromise safety.

“Do you have any concerns that on the vaccine side that FDA is not going through every safety step?,” Blunt asked Collins.

“No compromise at all on the safety and efficacy standards,” Collins responded.

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-IL, pointed to a defective 1955 polio vaccine that sickened tens of thousands of children with the disease and killed 10.

Durbin asked Collins to reflect on that.

“It was a terrible tragedy,” Collins replied. “I can reassure you and the American people that that strategy of trying to administer a killed vaccine is not currently being pursued because of those risks.”

Collins says thanks to billions of federal dollars his team is making great progress.

But U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-WA, worries drug companies might get greedy at the expense of the public.

“I’m very concerned that pharmaceutical companies have dictated the terms,” Murray said.

Dr. Robert Redfield, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, says he is cautiously optimistic the vaccine will be ready by April 2021.

“The goal is vaccine access for all Americans,” he said.

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