President Donald Trump said the U.S. government could start distributing a coronavirus vaccine as early as October, a much more optimistic estimate than from his own health officials.
“We’re very close to that vaccine as you know and I think much closer than I think most people want to say,” Trump said during a White House press briefing Wednesday. “We think we can start some time in October. So as soon as it’s announced we’ll be able to start. That will be from mid-October on. It may be a little bit later than that.”
He said the U.S. has manufactured all of the necessary supplies and health officials will be able to distribute at least 100 million vaccine doses by the end of the year.
Trump’s remark come as infectious disease experts and scientists in recent weeks have said they have concerns that the White House may be pressuring the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before it’s been adequately tested. There are currently no approved vaccines and at least three drugmakers expect to know if their vaccines work by the end of the year.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has said it’s “conceivable” but unlikely the U.S. will have a safe and effective vaccine by October.
Earlier in the day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlined a sweeping plan to make vaccines for Covid-19 free to all Americans. In the plan, the CDC said it anticipates a coronavirus vaccine will initially be granted an emergency use authorization before a full formal approval.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield told lawmakers at a Senate hearing that the vaccine will initially be very limited and will likely go to those most in need, such as health-care workers. He said it will take about “six to nine months” to get the entire American public vaccinated.
Trump said Redfield was mistaken when he said the vaccine wouldn’t be widely available to the general public until next summer or early fall.
“I think he made a mistake when he said that. It’s just incorrect information and I called him and he didn’t tell me that and I think he got the message maybe confused, maybe it was stated incorrectly,” Trump said. “We’re ready to go immediately as the vaccine is announced and it could be announced in October, it could be announced a little bit after October but once we go we’re ready.”
When larger quantities of vaccine become available, the CDC said, there will be two simultaneous objectives: to provide widespread access to vaccination and to ensure high uptake in target populations, particularly those who are at high risk of death or complications from Covid-19.
“The CDC’s goal is to have enough Covid-19 vaccine for all in the United States who wish to be vaccinated,” Redfield said.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.