WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said on Friday that by April 2021, everyone in the United States who wants to be vaccinated against COVID-19 will be able to get a shot.
“We will have manufactured at least 100 million doses by the end of the year, and likely much more than that. Hundreds of millions of doses will be available every month and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April,” he told reporters at the White House.
Earlier this week, the head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that he did not expect a vaccine to be “generally available to the American public” before the middle of 2021.
“Since January, America’s brilliant doctors and scientists have been working around the clock. These are the best medical minds in the world by far and the vaccines are going through the gold standard of clinical trials,” the president said on Friday.
“Three vaccines are already in the final stage,” Trump said of medications developed by Pfizer, AstraZeneca and BioNTech that are currently undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials in the US.
Once a vaccine is approved, the government will begin distributing it within 24 hours, relying in part on the Armed Forces, the president said.
“Massive amounts will be delivered through our great military,” he said.
The briefing also included comments by Dr. Scott Atlas, former chief of neuroradiology at Stanford Medical School, a recent addition to the White House coronavirus task force.
“The people on the prioritized lists, including high risk and first responders, will have the ability to take the vaccine. At the latest, in January,” Atlas said.
“There will be hundreds of millions of doses delivered for people to take it during the first quarter (of 2021) and so that by April, every single American who wants to be vaccinated will have the ability to be vaccinated. It is not a forced vaccination,” the physician said.
On Wednesday, Trump again predicted that a vaccine would be ready ahead of the Nov. 3 election, in which he is seeking a second term.
The president also expressed confidence that his administration would be in a position to distribute 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine by the end of this year.
Those remarks came just hours after the CDC head, Dr. Robert Redfield, testified before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies that mass vaccination was months away.
“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 late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” Redfield told senators.
When questioned about Redfield’s testimony, Trump said that the person he named to run the CDC was “confused” and “mistaken.”
No country has been hit harder by the coronavirus than the US, with more than 198,000 deaths and upwards of 6.7 million confirmed cases.
Trump’s opponent in the presidential race, former vice president Joe Biden, has attacked the incumbent for his handling of the public health crisis.
The challenger’s running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, accused Trump of politicizing the quest for a vaccine and said she would not trust any assurances from him about the safety of efficacy of a vaccine.
In another pandemic-related development, the CDC reversed course on guidance for who should be tested for coronavirus.
Last month, the CDC departed from its own previous recommendations by saying that a person exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 doesn’t “necessarily” need to get tested.
That change prompted criticism from public health experts and the CDC issued a statement on Friday reinstating the original guidance.
“If you have been in close contact, such as within 6 feet of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes and do not have symptoms. You need a test,” the revised guidelines say.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the controversial recommendation released in August was imposed on the CDC by officials at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Trump has complained about what he sees as excessive testing, calling it a “double-edged sword.”
The CDC estimates that up to 40 percent of people infected with the coronavirus do not experience symptoms.