Dr Francis Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, gives an opening statement during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing to discuss about vaccines and protecting public health during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Washington, U.S., September 9, 2020. Michael Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS

(Reuters) – The pause of AstraZeneca Plc’s (AZN.L) coronavirus vaccine trials due to an unexplained illness in a study participant shows that safety of vaccines will not be compromised, the head of the National Institutes of Health told a U.S. Congress panel on Wednesday. 

AstraZeneca said it had paused global trials, including large late-stage trials, of the experimental vaccine following the development to allow an independent committee to review safety data.

The NIH is providing funding for the company’s vaccine trial. 

“I want to address concerns about safety. This is foremost in our minds. We cannot compromise here,” said NIH’s Director Francis Collins at a hearing by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. 

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. surgeon general Jerome Adams said at the hearing that the U.S. health department had issued guidance that would allow state-licensed pharmacists to administer coronavirus vaccines once they are available.