NIH Director Collins says future COVID-19 vaccine approvals will follow science or 'I will have no part of it'

National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, M.D.,  told a Senate committee that any decisions around the release of a COVID-19 vaccine will be based purely on science or he "will have no part of it."

"I cannot say strongly enough that the decisions about how this vaccine is going to be evaluated and assessed is going to be based on science and I know I speak for my colleagues in the government and, certainly for the scientific community broadly, that that can be the only basis upon which this decision is made. Otherwise, the public would not be expected to trust us," Collins, M.D., said during his testimony on Wednesday. 

Collins, was testifying alongside Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, M.D., who is the U.S. surgeon general on the integrity of the COVID-19 vaccine development process before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

President Donald Trump has been pushing for accelerated vaccine development timelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In recent weeks, Trump indicated a vaccine might be approved before the U.S. election — potentially by ending testing through an emergency authorization -— which experts warn could erode public confidence in the process. This week, nine top biopharma CEOs vowed to not seek approvals or emergency use authorizations for their vaccine candidates without conclusive positive data.

RELATED: Pfizer, AZ, Moderna and more pledge not to rush COVID-19 vaccines

Former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, called for assurances from the leading medical experts that science would guide decisions about when a vaccine would become available without taking the election into account.

"Will it be done by a certain date? I could not possiby tell you right now because I don't know what's going to happen in the coming months," Collins told him. "I do have cautious optimism that, by the end of 2020, at least one of these vaccines will have emerged and turned out to be safe and effective. But even that is a guess. And certainly to try to guess if it happens by a particular week before or after a particular day or week in early November is well beyond anything that any scientists could tell you and be confident that they know what they are saying.

"Yes, science and science alone, will be the way in which this decision is made otherwise I will have no part of it." 

Adams echoed Colllins' statement about science driving the vaccine process.

"I want the American people to hear me say this: There will be no shortcuts. This vaccine will be safe and effective or it won't get moved along,'" Adams said. "When a vaccine is either approved or authorized by the [Food and Drug Administration], I and my family will be in line to get it."