President Trump now says a few coronavirus vaccine makers are in the home stretch and could reach the finish line as soon as next month. He also refuted statements made by his own CDC director who downplayed the vaccine's effectiveness and availability to the general public.
In a Senate hearing Wednesday, Dr. Robert Redfield said he, "Might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me than the vaccine because the immunogenicity might only be 70 percent and if I don't get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me," he said, holding up a face mask. "This will."
Redfield also said while an estimated 80 million high-risk individuals such as first responders and nursing home residents will likely be offered the vaccine within a few months after it's approved, it may be until late summer or early fall of 2021 until the general public can get one.
Within hours, President Trump pushed back against both statements.
"I think he made a mistake when he said that," the president told reporters. "It's just incorrect information. And I called him and he didn't tell me that. And I think he got the message may be confused. Maybe it was stated incorrectly."
Trump said a "vaccine is much more effective than the masks" and that a vaccine would go "to the general public immediately," adding, "under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said."
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New White House Coronavirus Task Force advisor Scott Atlas, M.D., echoed President Trump's remarks at a news conference Wednesday, saying all high-risk people will be vaccinated by January and everyone else by the end of March 2021.
"Within the first 24 hours of the FDA's approval under an emergency use we will have vaccines being delivered, within the first 24 hours," he said. "And it will be done at virtually no cost to Americans."
The White House said initially the US Military will help with logistics and distribution of the vaccine to 51,000 outlets nationwide, including 14,000 health centers in minority areas.
Trump said, “Number one is safety, number two is speed. But you can have perfect safety and have much more speed and that's what we did."
The president also accused Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris of playing politics by casting doubt on the safety and efficacy of a vaccine that is rolled out under a Trump administration.
"I'm calling on Biden to stop promoting his anti-vaccine theories because all they're doing is hurting the importance of what we're doing," he said. "And I know that if they were in this position they'd be saying how wonderful it is. They're recklessly endangering lives. You can't do that."
Meanwhile, pro-life advocates such as Republican Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, continue to express concern about vaccine manufacturers using unethical practices.
"Some of them have chosen to use aborted fetal tissue in the production of the vaccine," Lankford told the Appropriations Committee's Labor, Health & Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Subcommittee during a hearing to review coronavirus response efforts. "How are you balancing out that there will be an ethical alternative for individuals that don't want to take a vaccine that's also produced using the tissue of an aborted child?"
Committee members said they'd look into the matter.
The pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute identifies which coronavirus vaccines have been developed using fetal cells from aborted children on its website. Health experts say it's likely people who are pro-life can receive a vaccine that doesn't violate their conscience because many of the leading contenders, such as the vaccine developed by Pfizer, were not developed using cell lines from aborted babies.
Furthermore, President Trump said Wednesday it's likely more than one vaccine will be approved and available to the public, which can choose based on ethical considerations.