CDC Director Robert Redfield says to expect wide distribution of a vaccine in mid-2021, while Trump has claimed one will be ready by election day

By Julie Mazziotta
September 17, 2020 01:12 PM
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Dr. Robert Redfield speaks at a Coronavirus Task Force briefing while President Donald Trump looks on
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The director of the Centers for Disease Control said Wednesday that a coronavirus vaccine will not be widely available for distribution until mid-2021 at the earliest, setting up a clash with President Donald Trump, who claims Americans will be able to get vaccinated starting in October — just before the election.

Testifying before the Senate on Wednesday, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said a vaccine likely will not be approved until late November or December, and that it would take another “six to nine” months to vaccinate every American.

"If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public, so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at third, late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” Redfield told the Senate Appropriations Committee, CNN reported.

Redfield also said that masks may be even more effective than a vaccine in some cases.

"I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because the immunogenicity [the immune response to a vaccine] may be 70 percent. And if I don't get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will," he said, adding, however, that currently, not enough Americans are wearing masks to reduce the U.S. outbreak.

Redfield’s testimony led to an unusual rebuke from Trump, who denied the statements from his own public health agency. Trump contradicted Redfield after his testimony, claiming that a vaccine will be ready “to distribute immediately.”

“We are set to — it could be in October, or in November. It could be later than that, but I think it will be in October," Trump told reporters, according to NBC News. "We will be able to distribute at least 100 million vaccine doses by the end of 2020. And a large number much sooner than that.”

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Trump said that he thinks Redfield “made a mistake” when he said that a vaccine will not be widely available until 2021, and “under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said.” The president also claimed that Redfield misspoke when he said that masks are key for slowing the spread of COVID-19. “The mask is not as important as the vaccine,” Trump said, according to The New York Times.

Several scientific studies have confirmed that masks are effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

When reporters asked Trump why Americans should trust him instead of the director of his own public health agency, the president said “because of the great job” he’s done leading the pandemic response.

Trump’s insistence that a vaccine will be ready in late October or early November, just before election day, has drawn criticism and doubt from the scientific community. Concerns over the politicization of a vaccine led nine of the leading vaccine makers to sign a pledge vowing to follow “high ethical standards” and not rush a vaccine into production before it is proven to work.

Shortly before Trump’s comments, former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, said he is concerned about the president’s ability to safely distribute a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Let me be clear: I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump, and at this moment, the American people can’t either,” Biden said.

After Trump contradicted Redfield, Biden shared his quote about “trust” again on Twitter, adding: “this is what I meant.”

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