Fauci and Redfield testify before Senate committee

Washington — Top administration health officials, including Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield, are testifying before the Senate on Wednesday to discuss the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic. The hearing comes the day after the U.S. passed the grim milestone of 200,000 coronavirus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.



a man wearing a suit and tie: House Select Subcommittee On Coronavirus Crisis Holds Hearing On Urgent Need For A National Plan


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House Select Subcommittee On Coronavirus Crisis Holds Hearing On Urgent Need For A National Plan

Redfield and Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are joined by Assistant Secretary For Health Dr. Brett Giroir and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the director of the Food and Drug Administration, in a hearing before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP).

In his opening statement, Fauci said that he believed the country would know by November or December whether the vaccines currently being developed would be effective.

“We feel strongly that if we have a combination of adherence to the public health measures together with a vaccine … we may be able to turn around this terrible pandemic which we have been experiencing,” Fauci said.

Hahn repeatedly said in his opening statement that the efficacy of a vaccine would not be determined by any political actors, but by career scientists at the FDA. Some Democrats have raised concerns that political considerations for the president could affect the speed at which a vaccine is being developed.

“I will fight for science. I will fight for the integrity of the agency,” Hahn said, implicitly pushing back against those concerns.

Each member of the panel confirmed that they had confidence in the FDA vaccine development process, and would take the vaccine and recommend it to their families as soon as it was confirmed to be safe and effective.

Democratic Senator Patti Murray, the ranking member of the committee, grilled Redfield on why the CDC updated its COVID-19 guidance to acknowledge the risk that the coronavirus can be transmitted through airborne respiratory particles, and then edited its website again Monday morning to take that information down. Redfield said that the CDC website could be trusted to provide the public with accurate information, even if that information occasionally had to be “modified.”

“My agency and myself are committed to data and science, and to giving the American public the best public health recommendations we can,” Redfield said.

Redfield’s testimony comes the week after President Trump contradicted the CDC director about the timeline for distributing a coronavirus vaccine. At a hearing before a Senate subcommittee last week, Redfield said any vaccine is unlikely to be widely available to most Americans before the summer or early fall of 2021.

“If you’re asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we’re probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” Redfield told lawmakers last Wednesday.

However, at a White House briefing later that day, Mr. Trump continued to claim it would be sooner, insisting that Redfield “made a mistake” and “was confused.” He added that “under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said.”

Fauci weighed in on the dispute in an interview with WTOP on Thursday, saying “in many respects, they were both right.”

“The president was saying is that it is entirely conceivable that we will have an answer by October. My projection is that it would likely be November or December,” Fauci said about a vaccine. “If you want to ask the question, what about getting everybody vaccinated so that we can say vaccines have now had a significant impact on how we are able to act in the sense of going back to some degree of normality — that very likely would be in the first half to the third quarter of 2021.”

Efforts to rapidly test, manufacture and distribute the vaccine have left some people skeptical of its safety. There are currently seven companies with vaccines in Phase 3 clinical trials, the final phase of vaccine development which involves large-scale tests on at least 30,000 people.

Audrey McNamara contributed to this report.

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