By Zachary Stieber
Members of Congress are preparing to probe COVID-19 vaccine development and other issues related to the shots.
The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is planning to investigate how possible side effects are being studied, the regulatory process of authorizing and approving the vaccines, and why the vaccines were mandated, members told The Epoch Times.
One goal of the committee is making sure the United States is prepared for future pandemics, “and that includes perfecting our vaccine development,” Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa) told The Epoch Times via email. “In order to do so, we must have complete transparency in vaccine research, clinical trials and adverse reactions, and manufacturing.”
“I expect our oversight hearings will shed light on the FDA approval process, the potential for side effects, and ultimately the success rate and safety of the vaccine—each of which will help us to navigate future global health emergencies,” she added.
Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.), another member, said the panel “will be performing a comprehensive review of how the vaccines were developed, approved, and mandated.”
McCormick, a doctor, is concerned about how data on possible side effects has been collected. He also wants to look into how children as young as 6 months old have been encouraged to get a primary series and at least one booster, “given the lack of scientific evidence for a benefit, coupled with real concerns about possible harm for an otherwise immune person.”
Children are at the least risk from COVID-19. Vaccines were cleared for kids for prevention of symptomatic COVID-19 based on immunogenicity data, or antibody production. Real-world data shows the vaccines provide transient protection against symptomatic infection. Children and others who have recovered from COVID-19 enjoy shielding against the disease, especially against severe illness, and some research has found that after recovery, people have a higher risk of vaccine side effects.
“People do deserve to know about the long term safety and efficacy of the vaccine. A lot of the things that were told to us, like ‘they prevent transmission’ and all of that, was not true. So people will have concerns and those concerns should be addressed,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), another member of the subcommittee, told The Epoch Times.
Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which clears vaccines, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which decides whether to recommend vaccines, increasingly bypassed their expert advisory panels during the pandemic after the panels pushed back against decisions like advocating for boosters before a review of trial data was complete. Two top FDA officials, including one who wanted more time to examine data on Pfizer’s vaccine, resigned in 2021.
“We need to know who made the decision to bypass the standard vaccine approval processes,” Lesko, a subcommittee member, told The Epoch Times via email.
Lesko said she also hopes the panel will investigate why mandates were imposed and what effects the mandates had.
“The COVID-19 vaccine mandates were a clear abuse of government authority, and we need to know who made the formal decision to implement these mandates. Additionally, I believe we need answers on the data from the COVID-19 clinical trials, given the significant disparity between the trials and real-world effects from these vaccines,” Lesko said. “I hope we can get to the bottom of these issues, and I am proud to work with my colleagues to get the long-overdue answers the American people deserve.”
The House of Representatives established the subcommittee in its rules package.
The panel was authorized to investigate the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the U.S. government’s funding of risky experiments known as gain-of-function research; the use of taxpayer funds and relief programs, including reports of fraud; and “the development of vaccines and treatments, and the development and implementation of vaccination policies for Federal employees and members of the armed forces.”
The package also enabled the panel to explore the economic impact of the government’s response to the pandemic, Executive Branch policies and communications, and the societal impact of the decision to close schools across the country.
A Democrat-led House select subcommittee was convened in the previous Congress. That panel examined the Trump administration’s efforts to influence public health agencies, probed the vaccine manufacturer Emergent BioSolutions, and investigated the Paycheck Protection Program.
Republican members of the new panel met recently to go over the subcommittee’s priorities, Malliotakis told The Epoch Times. They include digging into whether the virus originated at the U.S.-funded lab in Wuhan, China. Malliotakis also wants to investigate then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s directive to nursing home operators to accept people even if they tested positive for COVID-19, which critics say led to unnecessary deaths among the elderly.
Many of the issues were brought up by Republicans in the previous Congress, but because they were in the minority, they often didn’t receive answers.
“We were ignored because we were in the minority and we didn’t have subpoena power to bring those people before us to testify. That’s the real difference here. Now, we have subpoena power,” Malliotakis said. “And so we’re going to respectfully ask again for the answers to our questions. If they don’t provide them, then the chairman may be forced to subpoena.”
The coronavirus subcommittee is working under the House Oversight Committee. Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), who chairs that panel, declined to say whether witnesses who resist cooperating voluntarily will be subpoenaed.
“The Select Subcommittee is charged with a thorough review of the pandemic, including the development of vaccines and the subsequent policies and mandates. Select Subcommittee Chairman Wenstrup is the right guy to lead the charge and I look forward to working with him,” Comer told The Epoch Times via email. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) is chairing the subcommittee.
The first formal action by the new committee was announcing efforts to get testimony from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and others who could shed light on the origins of COVID-19.
The subcommittee was directed to issue a final report by Jan. 2, 2025, with the ability to issue interim reports as it deems necessary.