It’s impossible to know if there will be a safe and effective vaccine by November, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins told the Senate on Wednesday morning.
“Will it be done by a certain date? I could not possibly tell you right now,” Dr. Collins told Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) during a hearing of the Senate health committee. “Certainly, to try to predict whether it happens on a particular week before or after a particular date in early November is well beyond anything that any scientist right now could tell you and know what they’re saying.”
Collins added that “science and science alone will lead the way. Otherwise, I’ll have no part of it.”
As head of NIH, Collins does not play a direct role in approving an eventual COVID-19 vaccine.
Rather, that task falls to the Food and Drug Administration, which is overseeing three COVID-19 vaccines that are currently in mass, phase III trials.
President Trump has been pressuring the FDA to approve a vaccine before the November election in a bid to juice his re-election chances. Some of the President’s advisors have reportedly referred to a pre-election vaccine as a “holy grail” for President Trump’s re-election prospects.
Several states have told TPM that they would refuse to distribute a vaccine that did not complete phase III trials or which did not pass muster under review from an independent board of scientists.
Collins added, “I don’t know what is going to happen.”
“I do have cautious optimism that by the end of 2020, one of these vaccines will have emerged and turned out to be safe and effective,” he added.