Trump Pledges Speedy Vaccine Roll-Out, Starting as Early as October; December at the Latest

Patrick Goodenough | September 17, 2020 | 4:24am EDT
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President Trump and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
President Trump and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. (Photo by Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

( – President Trump said Wednesday distribution of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to prioritized recipients could begin as early as next month, but by November or December at “the latest,” and suggested a speedier rolling-out to the broader population than that suggested earlier in the day by CDC Director Robert Redfield.

On a day when vaccines featured prominently in the election campaign, Trump pushed back at Redfield’s assessment during testimony on Capitol Hill that a vaccine would not be widely available for distribution to the general public before next summer.

“Under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said,” the president told reporters at the White House.

“As soon as that vaccine comes out, that’s safe and good and works – whether it’s Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson or anyone else – we are ready to distribute it very rapidly.”

“We’re ready to distribute immediately, to a vast section of our country, and then beyond. Because we want to help other countries also.”

“We are ready [to distribute it] at a much faster level than what he said,” Trump said in reference to Redfield. “We will have rapid distribution, we’re set up. Our military and others are set up to do it.”

“And we think it could even start taking place in October,” he added. “But certainly during November, December, would be the latest because, based on what we’re hearing results are – based on what I’m hearing, results are very good.”

During a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, Redfield was asked when he thought a vaccine would be “ready to administer to the public.”

“I think there will be a vaccine that will initially be available sometime between November and December, but very limited supply, and it will have to be prioritized,” he said.

“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 a vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we’re probably looking at third – late second quarter, third quarter 2021.”

In response to another question, Redfield said, “I think that vaccination will begin in November, December, and then will pick up – you know, it’ll be in a prioritized way. Those first responders and those at greatest risk for death. And then eventually that will expand.”

He said there were about 80 million people in the U.S. with “significant co-morbidities” that put them at risk.

“They have to get vaccinated, and then the general public.”

Trump at his press briefing said largely the same thing.

“We are focused on high-risk, but we’re going to focus also on general public very much,” he said.

“Our immediate aim is elderly people and especially elderly people with heart, diabetes problems. But we will have it – this is, we’re not looking at a small distribution program. We’re looking at distributing to the whole United States, with an immediate focus of the elderly.”

Distribution strategy released

The Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Defense on Wednesday released a COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy and an “interim playbook” for state and local governments, to ensure its availability to every American who wants one, at no charge.

“Limited COVID-19 vaccine doses may be available by early November 2020 if a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized or licensed by FDA by that time, but COVID-19 vaccine supply may increase substantially in 2021,” the playbook says.

Hypothetical scenarios for phase one – when vaccine quantities remain limited – range from 15-45 million doses of a vaccine being available by the end of December.

Prioritized populations in the early stages include healthcare personnel, other essential workers, people at higher risk of severe COVID-19 illness, including those 65 and older, and long-term care facility residents.

“Planners should assume that by January 2021, significantly more COVID-19 vaccine may be available for distribution and plans will need to evolve to address additional vaccine availability,” it says.

More than 939,000 deaths around the world have been attributed to the coronavirus, with the largest numbers of deaths reported in the United States (more than 196,000), Brazil (more than 134,000), India (more than 82,000) and Mexico (more than 71,000).

In the hunt for a vaccine, the World Health Organization as of September 9 listed 180 experimental candidates worldwide. Of those, 35 are undergoing clinical evaluation, and nine have reached the “phase III” final stage of human trials.

Reported frontrunners include those being developed by Moderna Inc., Oxford University/AstraZeneca, and Pfizer/BioNTech.

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