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E&C Leaders Urge COVID-19 Vaccine Developers to Follow Through on Safety Pledge with Commitment to Transparency

Sep 15, 2020
Press Release
“Dire consequences could result if any eventual authorization or approval of a vaccine is influenced by political pressure and is not based on sound science.”
Today, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) wrote to nine pharmaceutical companies currently developing COVID-19 vaccines seeking further information about their research and development efforts as well as how they intend to ensure that only a safe and effective product will be made available to the public.
The Committee leaders wrote to the nine pharmaceutical companies that signed a pledge last week committing “to developing and testing potential vaccines for COVID-19 in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles.” The pledge was signed by AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi.
“We appreciate your company’s efforts to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine and value the commitments your company and FDA leadership have made to uphold the scientific integrity of the approval process,” the Committee leaders wrote in their letters. “While we look forward to the timely availability of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine that the public can trust, we are concerned that increasing political pressure threatens this achievement. We implore you to fulfill the commitments you made in your announcement to ensure science and safety drive the process. We also strongly encourage you to take steps to make the process more transparent in order to regain the trust and confidence of the American people in a future COVID-19 vaccine.”
The pharmaceutical companies joined together to sign the pledge which followed a series of alarming remarks from President Trump tying the timeline of a COVID-19 vaccine’s availability to his own political needs. 
Over Labor Day weekend, Trump said that a COVID-19 vaccine would probably be available in October and continued on by saying “maybe before a special date. You know what date I'm talking about," referring to Election Day. Two weeks earlier, the President referred to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its career scientists responsible for reviewing and approving a vaccine as “the deep state,” and implied that FDA career staff are intentionally delaying a COVID-19 vaccine until after the presidential election in order to hurt his reelection efforts.
“Unfortunately, the Trump Administration’s track-record of prioritizing politics over science and the President’s recent remarks appear to be eroding some of the public’s trust in a future vaccine, the Committee leaders wrote to the pharmaceutical companies. “While one in three people indicated in July that they would get the vaccine when it became available, now just one in five people say they would get the vaccine once available.”
In order to help regain the public’s trust and confidence in the safety and efficacy of an eventual vaccine, the Committee leaders urged the pharmaceutical companies to follow up on their safety pledge with additional commitments to transparency. Experts have noted the absence of a commitment to transparency or other means of accountability in ensuring the companies keep the pledges they made last week.
As part of their inquiry, the Committee leaders requested answers to a series of questions by October 2, 2020.
To read the full letters to each of the full letters, click below: