President Trump announced a vaccine distribution plan Wednesday and predicted availability as early as October, directly contradicting a much longer timeline offered earlier in the day by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director.
Dr. Robert Redfield told a panel of Senate lawmakers not to expect a coronavirus vaccine to become widely available to most of the U.S. population until the summer of 2021 -- publicly rebuffing Trump’s repeated assertion that a vaccine might be available before the November election.
"I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information," Trump said Wednesday in response to a question from Fox News' John Roberts. "I believe he was confused."
Trump also refuted Redfield’s statements that wearing a mask may be more important than a potential vaccine because there’s clear scientific evidence they work.
"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 said, holding up his face mask before the Senate panel.
Trump said he spoke to Redfield afterwards and thinks the CDC director could have confused the question and answered "incorrectly."
"I think maybe he misunderstood it," Trump said, adding that "the mask is a mixed bag."
In an apparent attempt to clarify his comments on Wednesday, Redfield tweeted later that a "vaccine is the thing that will get Americans back to normal everyday life," but also reiterated that the best defense against the contagion currently is wearing a mask.
The coronavirus contradictions came as Trump confirmed at least one of his White House staffers tested positive for the virus. Trump didn't name the aide but said "it's not anybody that was near me."
Speaking before the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier Wednesday, Redfield said any version of the vaccine available this year would be in “very limited supply.” He estimated that the shot wouldn’t be broadly available to most of the U.S. population until the summer of 2021.
"There will be a vaccine that will initially be available sometime between November and December, but very limited supply and will have to be prioritized," Redfield 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 vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021."
The comments came just a day after Trump, in an interview on “Fox & Friends,” claimed a coronavirus vaccine could be approved “in a matter of weeks.”
Trump reiterated a rapid timeline again at the White House news conference Wednesday, saying it could be ready as soon as October and "we're ready to distribute immediately."
The Trump Administration released a coronavirus distribution strategy Wednesday to work with state and localities to ensure Americans have access to the shots in rapid time.
Dr. Scott Atlas, a White House coronavirus adviser, said he expected the high priority population will be vaccinated "no later than January" and then 700 million of the doses of the vaccine will be available at the end of March for broader distribution.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden promised an effective distribution plan for the vaccine should he win the White House and said he'd ensure the safety of a vaccine developed on Trump's watch.
“I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump," Biden said. "And at this moment, the American people can’t either.”
Trump tore into Biden for sowing doubt about the effectiveness of a vaccine that could save lives.
"I'm calling on Biden to stop promoting his anti-vaccine theories," Trump said. "They're recklessly endangering lives, you can't do that."
Fox News' Bradford Betz and Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.