Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious diseases expert, said that President Trump and Centers for Disease Control director Robert Redfield were "both right" about the distribution timeline for a coronavirus vaccine. Mr. Trump that Redfield had "made a mistake" when he told Congress a vaccine wouldn't be widely available until the second or third quarter of next year.
The president said Redfield was "confused" and that in fact, the vaccine would be distributed "very rapidly." He added that "under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said." Mr. Trump claimed Wednesday, "We are on track to deliver and distribute the vaccine in a very very safe and effective manner. And we think we can start sometime in October."
Fauci weighed in on the dispute in an interview with WTOP on Thursday, saying "in many respects, they were both right."
"The president was saying is that it is entirely conceivable that we will have an answer by October. My projection is that it would likely be November or December," Fauci said about a vaccine. "Let's say it is November, you could start in December, and you could start giving individuals who are in the high-risk (category), as well as health care workers, vaccines already starting in December into January, February. So, many of the people who actually would need the vaccine the most, the more vulnerable, could already be getting them in the beginning of the year."
But Fauci said the majority of Americans may not receive the vaccine until later.
"If you want to ask the question, what about getting everybody vaccinated so that we can say vaccines have now had a significant impact on how we are able to act in the sense of going back to some degree of normality — that very likely would be in the first half to the third quarter of 2021," Fauci said.
Soon after Mr. Trump contradicted Redfield on Wednesday, the CDC issued a statement to CBS News reiterating Redfield's belief in the efficacy of masks, without addressing the president's insistence that the CDC director was mistaken about the timing of a vaccine. Later, the agency sent a statement to other media outlets saying Redfield misunderstood the question. A spokesperson then retracted the latter statement.
Redfield had testified earlier in the day, "This face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine. If I don't get an immune response, the vaccine's not going to protect me. This face mask will."
The president also disagreed with Redfield on this point, arguing there are "problems" with masks, and they are "not more effective by any means than a vaccine."
Mr. Trump and White House allies have publicly flouted CDC guidelines on masks. He has also resumed his packed campaign rallies, where masks are not mandatory and supporters do not follow social-distancing guidelines.