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Francis Collins, the director of the US National Institutes of Health, told Congress this week that assessing the safety and efficacy of vaccines for COVID-19 is the agency's "top priority," according to CNBC. It adds that he further assured lawmakers that no steps would be omitted in that process.

Collins appeared in front of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which was holding a hearing on coronavirus vaccines. A handful of candidate COVID-19 vaccines have entered late-stage testing. Moderna began its phase III study of its candidate SARS-CoV-2, as did Pfizer and AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca has, however, paused its vaccine trial to investigate a possible adverse reaction. Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca are among the vaccine developers that issued a pledge earlier this week to hold off on seeking regulatory approval until there is data showing their vaccines are safe and effective.

"The critical final steps in clinical trials will be well coordinated and done in parallel with manufacturing, but with NIH and industry providing the FDA with all of the critical safety and efficacy data necessary for sound scientific decision-making," Collins told the committee, according to CNBC.