Donald Trump added even more confusion to the administration’s COVID-19 effort when he contradicted statements made just hours earlier by the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump insisted that Dr. Robert Redfield “made a mistake” when he told a Senate committee that a COVID-19 vaccine would not be widely available until the late second quarter or early third quarter of 2021. Redfield said that a vaccine could be available for some use by the end of the year, but it will only cover a segment of the population.
Trump said that he talked to Redfield after he made the statement, which conflict rosier scenarios that the president has made when it comes to vaccine availability.
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At the Senate committee hearing, Redfield also held up a face mask and told the Senate committee, “This face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70%, and if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me.”
But Trump said that he called Redfield after his Senate testimony, and claims that he misunderstood the question.
Trump said that a mask “is not as important as the vaccine,” even though it may help. But the president also raised issues with wearing the face coverings, and also questioned why Joe Biden wore a mask so frequently.
“I think there’s a lot of problems with masks,” Trump said, citing the case of waiters who touch their face coverings then touch plates of food they are serving.
The government has chosen three vaccine candidates that are currently in the trial phase. Trump has suggested that a vaccine would be available before Election Day.
Later, one reporter asked Trump, “How can the American people trust you on the pandemic when you are contradicting the head of the CDC?”
“Because of the great job we’ve done,” Trump responded.
Redfield issued a statement after Trump’s press conference, but did not say he misspoke.
“I 100% believe in the importance of vaccines and the importance in particular of a #COVID19 vaccine,” he said. “A COVID-19 vaccine is the thing that will get Americans back to normal everyday life. “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.”
Biden held a press conference earlier in the day, in which he laid out criteria for determining whether a vaccine was safe and effective.
“I trust vaccines. I trust the scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump,” Biden said.