House Democrats Warn Against 'Cutting Corners' On Vaccine Development

A coronavirus vaccine remains months away, and experts say several large-scale trials are still necessary.

House Democrats Warn Against 'Cutting Corners' On Vaccine Development
Ted S. Warren / AP

Tuesday afternoon, the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy held a briefing on ongoing efforts to create a coronavirus vaccine.  

As the coronavirus pandemic stretches into its fifth month of disrupting everyday life, millions of Americans are anxiously awaiting a vaccine with the hope life can return to normal.

"With a historic all-hands-on-deck effort underway around the globe, the timeline to develop a vaccine may be compressed from as many as 10-20 years down to just 12 or 18 months,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat and the subcommittee’s chair, said. “However, moving with this amazing speed does not — and must not — require cutting any corners.”

The hearing raised a plethora of concerns about cutting corners, with experts warning the distribution of a vaccine with an emergency use authorization by the FDA could spell disaster. 

“If the vaccine used under an [emergency use authorization] turns out to be ineffective or raises safety concerns and users are unclear the vaccine was unapproved, a crisis could occur, undermining confidence in all vaccines,” Dr. Jessie Goodman, a Georgetown University professor and a former chief FDA scientist, told the subcommittee.

Much of the hearing, which was led by congressional Democrats, pumped the brakes on a rapid return to normal, with experts warning a suitable vaccine must undergo phase 3 trials, involving 30,000 test subjects. 

“It's absolutely clear that only population-wide immunity will dampen the spread and end the pandemic,” underscored Dr. Bruce Gellin of the Washington, D.C.-based Sabin Vaccine Institute. 

Once a vaccine is deployed, committee members and experts warned Americans will still have to wear a mask and use personal protective gear.