President Trump repeatedly cast Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield as out-of-the-loop and generally under-informed on Wednesday for stating that a vaccine likely wouldn’t be widely available until mid-to-late 2021, with the president claiming a vaccine will be widely distributed before the end of the year and calling Redfield “confused” and “incorrect.”
In Senate testimony on Wednesday, Redfield predicted a vaccine would be in “very limited supply” by the end of the year even if approved by October, adding that it would only be “generally available” by the “late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”
Redfield also played down the power of vaccines compared to masks, arguing that they are “the most important, powerful public health tool we have” and are “more guaranteed to protect me against COVID” than a vaccine.
After White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany argued at a briefing on Wednesday “we do believe that it will be widely available by the end of the year,” Trump said at a later briefing he thought Redfield “made a mistake” on the vaccine timeline.
“It’s just incorrect information,” Trump said, asserting that a vaccine is “ready to go” and “ready for mass distribution to everybody,” calling Redfield “confused” and speculating he didn’t have all the information because “he’s not dealing with the military etcetera like I do.”
Trump said he called Redfield to press him on his answers and came away believing that he “misunderstood the questions,” claiming that Redfield told him of his answer on masks, “I think I answered that question incorrectly.”
Trump also renewed his criticism of masks, calling them a “mixed bag” and claiming that some experts dislike them “because of the touching and the touchiness.”
Forbes has reached out to an HHS spokesperson for comment.
Trump has long promised a vaccine could be available by Election Day and predicted that it would eradicate coronavirus before the end of the year. During a North Carolina tele-rally earlier this month, Trump stated, “It’ll be delivered, the vaccine, before the end of the year and frankly, maybe even during the month of October.” He has also framed vaccine approval as tantamount to solving the virus, stating a rally in Nevada on Sunday, “We’ll be ready before the end of the year and we will very easily defeat the China virus” and “we’re making that round beautiful last turn” in the pandemic.
Trump’s comments about Redfield play into the hands of former Vice President Joe Biden, who has cast doubt on the safety and efficacy of a vaccine put out by the Trump administration due to Trump’s hostility towards health officials like Redfield. “They’ve been quashed in things they’ve said, and they’ve been pressured,” Biden said. “They’ve been pressured, the heads of those agencies… have been, in fact, moved. Moved to say yes, this will work or that will work.”
44%. That’s the share of American adults who said in an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll in August that they would take a coronavirus vaccine approved by the government. As much as 22% said they would not take one, while 33% said they were unsure.