US President Donald Trump passes Dr Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a briefing about the coronavirus at the White House. File picture: Alex Brandon / AP
US President Donald Trump passes Dr Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, during a briefing about the coronavirus at the White House. File picture: Alex Brandon / AP

Confusion over US vaccine rollout after Trump questions CDC chief

By DPA Time of article published Sep 17, 2020

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Washington – The head of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said on Wednesday there would be enough doses of the coronavirus vaccine available by the middle of 2021 to allow the US to get back to normality, only for his statement to be questioned by President Donald Trump shortly afterwards.

The vaccinations will begin in November or December this year, but doses will be limited and "will have to be prioritised", CDC director Robert Redfield told the Senate committee investigating the response to Covid-19.

The first doses would go to people like front-line healthcare workers and the most vulnerable.

"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 the vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021," Redfield said.

The CDC director also stressed the need to wear face masks, calling the coverings "the important, powerful public health tool". He indicated the masks might even work better at protecting people from the new coronavirus than vaccines.

With the timetable for a coronavirus vaccine – and the response to the pandemic itself – a key campaign issue ahead of the November 3 presidential elections, US President Trump questioned Redfield's statement.

"I believe he was confused. I think he just made a mistake," Trump said in a press conference, saying he had spoken directly with Redfield. "I think he got the message maybe confused," he said.

Trump also suggested that Redfield had misunderstood the questions from Congress regarding masks. Trump himself does not habitually wear a face mask.

Redfield later tweeted: "The best defence 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."

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