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Pressure, Pressure

Operation Warp Speed in the US aims to quickly develop a COVID-19 vaccine, but some scientists are concerned about the influence of political pressure on the program, the New York Times reports.

It writes that during a White House meeting in April, a Department of Health and Human Services presentation on the initiative laid out an October deadline for broad access to a vaccine — timing that could help President Donald Trump's reelection bid in November. It notes, though, that that deadline was later pushed to the end of the year or early 2021.

Still, the Times reports, this and the public's desire to be done with the pandemic have raised concerns about interference in the vaccine development process. In particular, scientists like the University of Pennsylvania's Paul Offit tells the paper they worry that there will be a push to hurry a vaccine along, even if the scientific data isn't quite established. 

"Historically, the FDA has based their decisions on science," Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a House committee last week, according to the Times. "They will do so this time also, I am certain."

There has been rapid progress supported by the initiative, the Times notes. Two candidate vaccines, one from Moderna and one from Pfizer, recently began Phase 3 trials. It adds that the Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn has not ruled out issuing an emergency approval for a vaccine.