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President Trump claimed at a press briefing on Wednesday that CDC director Robert Redfield was wrong when he testified to Congress that a coronavirus vaccine won't be available for widespread distribution until the second or third quarter of 2021.

Why it matters: Trump has already faced criticism for allegations that his administration has politicized the coronavirus response and is seeking rapid approval and distribution of a vaccine in order to boost his re-election campaign.

  • Trump went on later in the briefing to say Redfield was wrong when he said that masks are "more guaranteed" to protect against the coronavirus than a vaccine: "As far as the masks are concerned, he made a mistake."
  • The president's contradiction of Redfield, who he said was probably "confused," may further erode public trust.

The big picture: A vaccine has not been submitted for the FDA to review, and even that may not happen by Trump's aggressive October estimate for distribution. Whenever a vaccine is approved, it will take several more months to manufacture enough of it to begin vaccinating the general public.

  • Redfield testified on Wednesday that a vaccine could be available for first responders and vulnerable populations by November or December, but that it will take six to nine months before it can be distributed nationally.
  • Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, the project tasked with developing a vaccine by January, has also said it is "extremely unlikely" that widespread distribution will be possible by October or November.

What he's saying: "I think [Redfield] made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information. I called him, and he didn't tell me that. I think he got the message maybe confused, maybe it was stated incorrectly," Trump said.

  • "No, we are ready to go. ... It could be announced in October, it could be announced a little bit after October. Once we go, we are ready."
  • Asked about his timeline for distribution to the general public, Trump responded: "Immediately. When we go we go. We are not looking to say, gee in six months we're going to start giving it to the general public."
  • "It was an incorrect statement. I saw the statement, and I called him and said what do you mean by that? And I think he just made a mistake. I think he misunderstood the question, probably."

The other side: "I 100% believe in the importance of vaccines and the importance in particular of a #COVID19 vaccine. A COVID-19 vaccine is the thing that will get Americans back to normal everyday life," Redfield tweeted after the press conference.

  • "The best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and being careful about crowds."

Joe Biden also responded on Twitter: "When I said I trust vaccines, and I trust the scientists, but I don't trust Donald Trump — this is what I meant."

Go deeper ... Biden: "I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump"

Go deeper

Dec 24, 2020 - Health

Mexico becomes first Latin American country to vaccinate against COVID

A nurse was the first person in Mexico to receive the vcaccine. Photo: Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty

Mexico became the first Latin American country to begin coronavirus vaccinations, amid a surge in cases, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The serum arrives as Mexico's hospitals reach a breaking point. The country tallies over 1.3 million COVID-19 cases and 120,000 deaths, per John Hopkins University data, though actual numbers are believed to be much higher.

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Dec 23, 2020 - Health

Why Americans will demand to be able to prove they're vaccinated

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

You've received a coronavirus vaccination — but can you prove it? The answer to that question will help determine how the global economy functions for the next few years.

Why it matters: The federal government will probably neither mandate nor encourage digital immunity passports or other proofs of vaccination. But privately-operated digital certificates are already being developed — and U.S. law means that anybody who gets vaccinated here should be able to obtain the proof they need.

The new Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Axios subject-matter experts brief you on the incoming administration's plans and team.