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World News

U.S. health secretary Azar defends vaccine process, tests negative for COVID-19

U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar attends a news conference about the latest coronavirus disease (COVID-19) developments, in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House in Washington, U.S. August 23, 2020. REUTERS/Erin Scott

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Friday said he had tested negative for COVID-19 and defended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s oversight of coronavirus vaccines under development.

Azar was speaking in person, with a mask on, to a congressional hearing. He tweeted that he tested negative for COVID-19 after protectively being screened following news of President Donald Trump’s positive test.

“Out of an abundance of caution I was tested for COVID-19 this morning and the result was negative. I will be testifying before Congress as scheduled,” Azar wrote on Twitter.

Azar said that six drugmakers that are receiving U.S. government funding for COVID-19 vaccine development have begun scaling up manufacturing of their vaccine candidates. The companies include Pfizer Inc, Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca PLC and Johnson & Johnson. among others.

Like U.S. Food and Drug Administration head Stephen Hahn, Azar said he is confident in the safety of any authorized vaccine for him and his family.

“I will be confident that my family and I should take the (COVID-19) vaccine... because any vaccine will have met FDA’s standards,” he said at the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

Scientists, public health officials and lawmakers are worried that the Trump administration will pressure the FDA to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine in advance of the Nov. 3 presidential election, even if data from clinical trials does not support its widespread use.

Reporting by Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Kevin Liffey, Matthew Lewis and Dan Grebler

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