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Vaccine development process is safe, claims of the contrary are baseless

All of our lives have been drastically impacted by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — and we know all of us are eager to return to the way things were before the pandemic began. However, that simply won’t be possible without a safe, effective vaccine. Fortunately, due to the strength of American innovation and unprecedented public-private partnerships, a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon. We, as the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee and a physician on the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, have been closely following our nation’s progress — and we are confident that we will have a safe, effective vaccine soon.

On July 21, 2020, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee held a hearing on vaccine development. The subcommittee heard from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, and Pfizer. All five companies are working on various vaccines and therapeutics for COVID-19 and have received federal funding. Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson are all now conducting “phase 3” clinical trials for their COVID-19 vaccine candidates, which is the last stage of testing prior to regulatory approval. AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson both recently paused their studies to examine an illness in one of the participants. This is standard protocol, and should give us even more confidence that vaccine companies are following standard safety procedures in their trials — not rushing through the process.

Currently, the Trump administration is working with many pharmaceutical companies to assist in two ways: To advance research and development and to ensure that when a COVID-19 vaccine is approved for safety and efficacy, it is ready to be shipped and distributed across the United States. 

Through “Operation Warp Speed” and the “Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV)” partnership, the federal government is doing everything it can to ensure that the private companies developing a vaccine have the resources they need. This assistance is also helping companies to begin establishing manufacturing capability and to initiate the purchasing of necessary raw materials including glass vials for packaging and needles and syringes for the administration of the vaccines. These programs are also facilitating the condensing of the regulatory timeline. For example, the government is currently providing financial support to a number of companies to allow for simultaneous development and production of a vaccine before it receives final approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Usually, companies will not begin to invest in producing a vaccine or treatment until it has first completed testing and received regulatory approval. We need to ensure that any COVID-19 vaccine is available as soon as it receives the final approval from the FDA.

All five companies assured the subcommittee that any vaccine they produce will meet all safety standards set by the FDA. They also vowed to be transparent about the testing and development process so there are no questions about safety or efficacy.

Many who are working closely on vaccine development are cautiously optimistic that we will

China using pangolin scales in traditional medicine despite claiming the contrary, says environment report

China is still allowing the use of pangolin scales in traditional medicine despite pledging to crack down on wildlife trade given concerns that close contact between humans and animals could lead to another devastating pandemic. 

A new report by the Environmental Investigation Agency has found that 221 companies in China remain licensed to sell products using pangolin scales, including leading traditional medicine company Beijing Tong Ren Tang.

Such goods are also being actively advertised and are available to domestic and international consumers via online shopping sites, according to the report.

The watchdog group is urging the Chinese government to close the loopholes that have allowed the pangolin trade to continue. One step the EIA is calling on Beijing to implement is to change the country’s wildlife protection law to fully prohibit the sale or possession of pangolin parts.

“Amid mounting concerns about the role of wildlife trade in causing the coronavirus pandemic, it is critical that the Chinese government ends all legal use of pangolin scales, instead of allowing the multi-billion dollar TCM industry to carry on as usual,” said Chris Hamley, senior pangolin campaigner with EIA.

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