Donald Trump has publicly contradicted his own top health official’s professional opinion on the timeline for providing a coronavirus vaccine and the effectiveness of masks.
The president said Dr Robert Redfield must have been ‘confused’ when he told Congress a vaccine would not be widely available until late 2021, also claiming he must have ‘misunderstood the question’ when he said face masks are more likely to protect against Covid-19 than vaccines.
It’s far from the first time the former businessman has been at odds with his top health professionals during the pandemic, having clashed with Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, numerous times.
Donald Trump has no scientific qualifications and previously got his lawyers to threaten to take legal action against Fordham University and the New York Military Academy if they released his academic records.
Dr Robert Redfield, who is the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Congress on Wednesday morning that while first responders may have access to a vaccine in November or December of 2020, most Americans wouldn’t get it until the ‘second or third quarter’ of 2021.
He said: ‘I think there will be a vaccine that will be initially available some time between November and December, but very limited supply and will have to be prioritized.
‘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 are probably looking at third, late second, third quarter of 2012.’
Trump disputed this claim later in the day, claiming he had been ‘mistaken’ and ‘we’re all set to distribute immediately’. The president has previously claimed a ‘safe’ vaccine could arrive ‘during the month of October’.
He said: ‘I think he made a mistake. I was very surprised to hear. It really doesn’t matter, we’re all set to distribute immediately.
‘I got the impression that he didn’t realize he said what he might have said. I didn’t see him say it.’
Following Trump’s remarks, a spokesperson for Redfield told ABC News he was ‘answering a question he thought was in regard to the time period in which all Americans would have completed their COVID vaccination.’
They added: ‘He was not referring to the time period when COVID-19 vaccine doses would be made available to all Americans.’
The president has previously said 100m doses of the vaccine will be available by the end of the year, while his virus adviser Scott Atlas has insisted 700m doses of the vaccine could be available by March.
Trump also rejected Dr Redfield’s professional opinion that masks may be a more effective protection against coronavirus.
Testifying to Congress, Dr Redfield told lawmakers masks were ‘the most important, powerful public health tool we have’ in fighting the pandemic, saying universal use could bring the crisis under control in months.
He said: ‘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 may be 70%. And if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will.’
He added that the American public had not yet embraced the use of masks enough to effectively control the outbreak.
Trump responded by saying his comments were incorrect, adding: ‘Maybe he misunderstood the question’.
The president said: ‘As far as the masks are concerned, I hope that the vaccine is going to be a lot more beneficial than the masks.’
Redfield afterwards in a statement that he believes in the ‘importance of vaccines and the importance in particular of a Covid-19 vaccine’. He did not address Trump’s accusation that he ‘misunderstood’.
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