World

Trump at odds with US virus expert about vaccine availability

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump took exception to comments from the director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, who said a vaccine for the novel coronavirus could be broadly rolled out in mid-2021 and that masks might be even more effective.

Dr Robert Redfield, in testimony to a congressional committee, said that general availability of a vaccine could come by "late second quarter, third quarter 2021".

Mr Trump, at a news conference, said he believed a vaccine will be rolled out much sooner.

He said he called Dr Redfield after his testimony to question him about it, and that Dr Redfield appeared to have been confused by the question.

"I think he made a mistake when he said that," Mr Trump said of Dr Redfield's testimony.

"I don't think he means that. When he said it, I believe he was confused."

Mr Trump said a vaccine might be available in a matter of weeks and there was a plan to begin distributing it widely soon after the Food and Drug Administration approves it.

Mr Trump is eager to have progress on a vaccine ahead of the Nov 3 presidential election.

He also criticised Dr Redfield for saying wearing a mask can be just as effective as a vaccine.

Mr Trump was initially reluctant to urge Americans to wear masks but has since been more willing to do so. Still, he has held tightly packed events where many participants have not covered their mouth and nose.

"Number one, it's not more effective than a vaccine and I called him about that," Mr Trump said.

Dr Redfield, a member of Mr Trump's coronavirus task force, did say a vaccine could be ready as soon as this November or December, and limited first doses could go to those who were most vulnerable, but he added it might take until mid-2021 for it to be widely available.

The World Health Organisation's top emergency expert, asked yesterday about contradictory remarks by Mr Trump and US health officials, said it was important for all countries to have "consistent messaging" for their public.

"It is important that we have consistent messaging from all levels, and it's not for one country or one entity; consistent messaging between science and between government," the WHO's Mike Ryan said.

The science around the coronavirus was "complicated stuff", with data and new evidence evolving, Mr Ryan said. - REUTERS

WORLD