What to expect from the official COVID-19 vaccine committee
The group, mostly doctors and researchers, also includes a member of the public.
As the race for an effective COVID-19 vaccine continues, the public will get inside look at one a crucial part of the Food and Drug Administration's decision-making process: the first meeting of its normally obscure advisory committee.
Never before has much attention been paid this small group of vaccine experts whose job is to advise the FDA on whether a new vaccine should be green lighted.
With the pandemic still raging and a potential vaccine in sight, Thursday will be the first of many FDA Advisory Committee hearings that will give the public an inside look at the highly technical discussions around benchmarks for safety and effectiveness.
I thought that was the first example recently of the FDA standing up for itself.
At this point, there isn't enough data for the committee to discuss the specifics of the individual vaccines that have progressed to late-stage trials. But for many, this meeting reflects a reassuring return to normalcy in a breakneck scientific race that has, at times, appeared vulnerable to political influence.
The FDA, for example, only recently clarified that it would require at least two months of safety data, effectively quashing President Donald Trump's desire to see an authorized vaccine before the Nov. 3 election.
"They drew a line," said Paul Offit, a committee member and a professor of pediatrics from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "I thought that was the first example recently of the FDA standing up for itself."
In response to concerns that the Trump administration, leading up to the election, is pushing the FDA to rush the vaccine process, officials including FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci repeatedly have pointed to the panel as a safeguard to ensure decisions are made based on science, not politics.
The Thursday meeting, Offit added, is likely to be a free-ranging scientific discussion about safety and effectiveness parameters. The FDA is facing several crucial questions: