Health Agency Heads Field Heated Questions On Vaccines, Independence Of Scientists

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, NIH infectious disease chief Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Robert Redfield testified on the state of the coronavirus pandemic before a Senate panel Wednesday.


The Hill:
Health Officials Tell Public To Trust In Science 


Trump administration health officials on Wednesday told a Senate panel that Americans should not lose faith in public health agencies or the vaccine development process, despite a recent spate of political interference. The officials sought to defend the scientific integrity of the administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic while reassuring Americans growing increasingly skeptical over the politicization of a vaccine for the virus. (Weixel, 9/23)


Politico:
FDA Chief: ‘I Will Fight For Science’ 


Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn sought to reassure the public Wednesday that any Covid-19 vaccine approved by the agency would be safe and effective, but offered few details on the bar for emergency use. “FDA will not authorize or approve a vaccine we won’t be confident in giving to our families,” he said at a Senate hearing on the government’s coronavirus response, adding later that he would “absolutely” encourage his own family to take an FDA-authorized shot. (Owermohle and Brennan, 9/23)


AP:
US Experts Vow ‘No Cutting Corners’ As Vaccine Tests Expand


Hopes are high that answers about at least one of several candidates being tested in the U.S. could come by year’s end, maybe sooner. “We feel cautiously optimistic that we will be able to have a safe and effective vaccine, although there is never a guarantee of that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health, told a Senate committee. (Neergaard and Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/23)


Fox News:
‘Most’ Americans Likely Vulnerable To Coronavirus Infection, CDC Director Says


Most Americans likely remain vulnerable to coronavirus infection and its potential outcomes, per comments from a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “In order to understand the proportion of the population that’s been infected with COVID-19, and what proportion remains at risk, CDC is currently performing large-scale serology testing across the United States,” Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC director, said on Wednesday during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing. (Rivas, 9/23)


The Hill:
Atlas Contradicts Redfield On Population Susceptibility To Coronavirus 


White House adviser Scott Atlas on Wednesday contradicted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield on how much of the U.S. population remains vulnerable to the coronavirus. The remarks at a White House press briefing comes a week after President Trump used the same forum to undermine testimony from Redfield on how quickly a COVID-19 vaccine could be available. (Budryk, 9/23)

In related news —


The Hill:
Despair At CDC After Trump Influence: ‘I Have Never Seen Morale This Low’ 


The Trump administration’s bungled response to the coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent efforts to meddle with recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are taking a substantial toll on the nation’s foremost public health institution. In interviews with half a dozen current and former CDC officials, they described a workforce that has seen its expertise questioned, its findings overturned for political purposes and its effectiveness in combating the pandemic undermined by partisan actors in Washington. (Wilson, 9/23)


ProPublica:
Trump’s Vaccine Czar Refuses To Give Up Stock In Drug Company Involved In His Government Role 


The former pharmaceutical executive tapped by President Donald Trump to lead the administration’s race to a COVID-19 vaccine is refusing to give up investments that stand to benefit from his work — at least during his lifetime. The executive, Moncef Slaoui, is the top scientist on Operation Warp Speed, the administration’s effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine in record time. Federal law requires government officials to disclose their personal finances and divest any holdings relating to their work, but Slaoui said he wouldn’t take the job under those conditions. So the administration said it’s treating him as a contractor. Contractors aren’t bound by the same ethics rules but also aren’t supposed to wield as much authority as full employees. (Arnsdorf, 9/23)


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