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."