President Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready for distribution as early as mid-October — hours after the head of the CDC testified it likely wouldn't be ready until the end of the year and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden voiced concerns he was putting politics ahead of safety.
"We’re all set to distribute immediately. We are set to — it could be in October, or in November. It could be later than that, but I think it will be in October," Trump told reporters in a news briefing, where he also said he thought a vaccine for the coronavirus would be ready in "mid-October."
"We will be able to distribute at least 100 million vaccine doses by the end of 2020. And a large number much sooner than that,” Trump said.
In testimony before the Senate on Wednesday, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Robert Redfield said a vaccine likely wouldn't be ready until late November or December, and it would take “six to nine” months to get every American vaccinated. He predicted people would be able to return to “regular life” by late next year.
"Under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said. We are ready at a much faster level than he said," the president continued, maintaining there would be immediate mass distribution of the vaccine to high-risk people but to the general public as well.
Trump said he thought Redfield had been confused in his testimony. "I think he made a mistake when he said that. It’s just incorrect information," Trump said.
Asked why people should trust him over his CDC director, Trump said "because of the great job" he's done.
The comments came shortly after Biden said that he doesn’t trust Trump to safely oversee the federal government’s approval and dissemination of a Covid-19 vaccine.
"I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump," Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden later tweeted out a clip of Trump contradicting Redfield, repeating the "trust" quote and adding, "this is what I meant."
Trump's predictions of a vaccine being ready before Election Day has contradicted the timeline that many health experts have said is realistic.
Several vaccine candidates have entered the final stage of testing in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that states should begin preparing for a "large-scale" distribution of Covid-19 vaccines by Nov. 1 — two days before the presidential election — while the head of the Food and Drug Administration has raised the possibility the agency could use its emergency authority to quickly approve a vaccine before clinical trials end. Those directives have led numerous Trump critics to question whether they were made because of political interference by the White House.
Biden on Wednesday repeated his message that "we can’t allow politics to interfere with the vaccine in any way" and pointed to dubious statements Trump has made in the past that are not backed up by science.
"He doesn’t have any respect for science," Biden said.
In his briefing, Trump charged Biden's rhetoric was dangerous.
“I’m calling on Biden to stop promoting his anti-vaccine theories because all they are doing is hurting the importance of what we are doing and I know that if they were in this position they would be saying how wonderful it is. They're recklessly endangering lives. You can’t do that," he said, accusing Democrats of "talking negatively" about a vaccine only "because they know we have it or will soon have it.”
The president also took aim at Biden and former President Barack Obama's handling of the swine flu crisis, saying "it was a total disaster."
Trump also continued chiding Redfield, and took aim at other comments he'd made during his testimony about the importance of wearing mask. Redfield testified it's currently "the most important, powerful public health tool we have."
"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," Redfield testified.
Trump again suggested Redfield had been confused and said he'd made "a mistake."
"Vaccine is much more effective than the mask," Trump said, calling face coverings "a mixed bag."
Redfield appeared to change his tune after Trump's briefing, tweeting "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."
In a second tweet, he added, "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."
At the briefing, Trump was also asked if he should wear masks more often publicly to be a good role model.
Trump said he thought he has been a good role model, before mocking Biden about how much he wears his mask.
"Joe feels very safe in a mask," Trump said. "Maybe he doesn’t want to expose his face."