Pharmaceutical executives testify before Congress on coronavirus vaccine progress

WASHINGTON (WPVI) -- Executives from five top bio-tech companies leading the charge on developing a vaccine against novel coronavirus testified before Congress Tuesday, saying no shortcuts will be taken.

These vaccines are being developed and tested faster than any other vaccine and the circumstances are unlike anything seen before.

Public health experts say the best way to stop the pandemic is with a safe and effective vaccine. The executives assured lawmakers that despite the rapid pace of research, quality and safety aren't being sacrificed.

"Speed is important, but we will not compromise careful efficacy quality and above all, safety assessments," said Dr. Julie Gerberding.



Currently, hundreds of vaccines are being developed and 23 are in human clinical trials.

Several trials have reported early promising results, showing no safety concerns and good immune response.

Researchers at Oxford University say they're moving to phase three trials, enrolling 30,000 volunteers. Phase three trials will show us if the experimental vaccines can truly prevent a COVID-19 infection.

Dr.Francis Collins, director of the National Institute of Health, weighed in on the progress during an interview with ABC's Bob Woodruff.
"I wouldn't say it's distinctly better than what we see for the Moderna trial or the Pfizer trial. They all looked good which is encouraging to see," he said.

In the best case scenario, Dr. Collins says "We will have one, two or maybe three vaccines that are proven safe and effective in these large scale studies for which we have collectively 100 million doses already manufactured and ready to be distributed to high risk people."

"Then we need to ask the questions - where is the highest risk and the highest rate of transmission of coronavirus, and which communities and demographics of people dying at a higher disproportionate rate," said U.S. Rep Raul Ruiz, D-CA.

Production would then need to rapidly increase, with executives saying that would happen at facilities in the United States.

"With the promise of scaling that manufacturing up rapidly in early 2021, so that by spring of 2021 we would have most Americans able to receive the immunization," said Dr. Collins.

As for cost, many say it would be not for profit.

"We believe a COVID vaccine should be free to the public. A vaccine is meaningless unless people are able to afford it," said John Young, Chief Business Officer at Pfizer.
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