US President Donald Trump says a vaccine for COVID-19 could be ready in three or four weeks, despite some US public health officials urging caution about that accelerated timeline.
Mr Trump made the comments while speaking at a town hall hosted by the American ABC News, saying a vaccine could be ready for distribution before the US presidential election on November 3.
« If you want to know the truth, the previous administration would have taken perhaps years to have a vaccine because of the FDA and all the approvals. And we’re within weeks of getting it … Could be three weeks, four weeks. »
« So contrary to all of the lies, the vaccine that they’ve politicised — they’ll say anything and it’s so dangerous — but the vaccine will be very safe and very effective and it’ll be delivered very soon, » he said
That promise came after Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris said she « would not trust » Mr Trump’s word on the safety of a coronavirus vaccine.
« I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he’s talking about. I will not take his word for it, » she said.
Earlier this month, top US infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci told CNN that most experts believed a vaccine would be ready by November or December.
« It is conceivable that you can have it by October, though I don’t think that that’s likely, » Dr Fauci said.
But the world was given a crash-course in the perils of vaccine development last week when late-stage trials for a leading coronavirus vaccine candidate were suspended after a study participant suffered an « unexplained illness ».
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has given assurances in the past that the President « will not in any way sacrifice safety » when it comes to a vaccine, and executives of five top pharmaceutical companies have pledged that no vaccines or treatments will be approved without proof they are safe.
The White House has flagged that the military will drive the rollout of the vaccine in the US, but a plan for which Americans might receive the vaccine first is yet to be finalised, something that has experts concerned.
The uncommitted voters who participated in the ABC News town hall asked Mr Trump about his handling of coronavirus. One voter focused on recordings released last week where Mr Trump admitted downplaying the threat of COVID-19 in the earliest stages of the pandemic.
« Yeah, well, I didn’t downplay it. I actually, in many ways, I up-played it, in terms of action. My action was very strong, » Mr Trump said.
Mr Trump also insisted he was not wrong when he praised China’s response to the virus in January and February, saying he trusted China’s president Xi Jinping, .
« He told me that it was under control, that everything was, and it turned out to be not true, » he said.
Asked if he could have done more to stop the pandemic from spreading in America, which has reported nearly 6.6 million cases of COVID-19 and nearly 195,000 deaths, Mr Trump said: « I don’t think so ».
« I think what I did by closing up the country, I think I saved two, maybe two and a half [million], maybe more than that lives. I really don’t think so. I think we did a very good job, » he said.
Mr Trump also suggested the virus would disappear without a vaccine, claiming the nation would develop a herd immunity with time, but he didn’t mention the lives that would be lost along the way.
« It’s going to be herd-developed, and that’s going to happen. That will all happen, » Mr Trump said.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden will sit down for a similar event with CNN on Thursday local time.
Both events have been viewed as testing grounds ahead of the upcoming presidential debates, which begin on September 29 (September 30 AEST).
The second of the three scheduled debates, set to be held in Miami on October 15, will feature a similar « town meeting » style.
Keep up with the latest US politics news and get more insights by signing up to ABC News on Messenger.
Returning from a day of campaigning in Florida, Mr Biden said he was preparing for the debates mostly by going back through what Mr Trump had said in the past.
But he suggested he had yet to hold mock debates, saying he was unaware who would play the role of Mr Trump in his preparations.
Earlier this week, Mr Trump told Fox News that he believed his day job was the best practice for his three scheduled showdowns with Mr Biden.
This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.
AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)
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