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Approving a vaccine in the U.S. usually takes years, but COVID-19 vaccines are moving through in record time. What does that mean?

USA TODAY

The heads of nine biopharmaceutical companies issued a letter early Tuesday pledging to fully vet their COVID-19 candidate vaccines before asking for federal approval to market them. 

“We, the undersigned biopharmaceutical companies, want to make clear our on-going commitment to developing and testing potential vaccines for COVID-19 in accordance with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles,” the statement said.

The statement comes amid increasing concern among public health officials, scientists and doctors that the White House might bring significant political pressure to bear on the Food and Drug Administration to get a vaccine before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

All nine companies are individually or jointly developing a candidate COVID-19 vaccine supported at least in part with federal dollars, which so far amounts to