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Health officials testify science, integrity will guide COVID-19 vaccine process

‘Science will guide our decisions,' FDA head says

DETROIT – The nation’s top health experts testified before a Senate committee Wednesday.

The hearing primarily focused on ensuring the safety of a coronavirus vaccine and the recent retractions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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With many Americans expressing concern that a vaccine might be rushed to be approved before election day, senators repeatedly asked the heads of the Food and Drug Administration, the CDC and Dr. Anthony Fauci for assurances that would not be the case.

“The FDA will not authorize or approve a vaccine that we would not feel comfortable giving to our families,” said FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn. “On behalf of the 17,000 plus employees of the FDA, I want to make the following commitments today to the American public and this committee -- FDA will not authorize or approve any COVID-19 vaccine before it has met the agency’s rigorous expectations for safety and effectiveness."

Hahn went on to say that the decision to approve a vaccine or treatment will be made by the FDA after a thorough review process.

“Science will guide our decisions,” Hahn said. "FDA will not permit any pressure from anyone to change that.”

Senators repeatedly questioned CDC director Robert Redfield about guidance regarding testing that was quietly added and suddenly removed from the CDC website.

Related: CDC changes, then retracts, web posting on how virus spreads

“There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others and travel distances beyond six feet -- for example, during choir practice, in restaurants or in fitness classes -- is that statement accurate?” asked Sen. Tim Kaine.

“There’s definitely evidence of that, sir,” Redfield answered.

“There’s no inaccuracy?” Kaine asked.

“There’s definitely evidence of that,” Redfield replied.

Redfield said guidance changes on asymptomatic testing was retracted because it had been misinterpreted.

“We believe very much that asymptomatic transmission is an important part of the transmission cycle of this virus,” Redfield said. “Those individuals when they’ve been exposed, should, in fact, be tested.”

Fauci said frequent testing would lead to keeping numbers down and slow the spread.

“If we all did it, and we did it consistently, we would not only prevent the surges that we’ve seen, but we would also get those surges down,” Fauci said.

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