U.S. President Donald Trump and his administration confidently proclaimed Friday that the U.S. will be able to distribute a full-scale coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year, despite most public health experts estimating it could take at least 12 to 18 months, if not longer.
“Winning matters, and we will deliver by the end of this year a vaccine at scale,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said.
Former pharmaceutical executive Moncef Slaoui and Army Gen. Gustave Perna will lead an effort that is already narrowing down vaccine candidates, Trump announced, adding that the most promising ones will be used in a clinical trial.
“We are looking to get it by the end of the year if we can, maybe before,” he said.
Asked if the vaccine would be fully available and not just partially available on an emergency basis, Trump asserted it would be.
“We are looking for a full vaccine for everyone that wants to get it,” he said. “Not everybody is going to want to get it, but we’re looking at a full vaccine.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar suggested the vaccine may be developed under an emergency authorization, and claimed it would be “available for the entire American population by January.”
Trump has previously made unfulfilled promises — for example, repeatedly declaring that everyone would be able to access a COVID-19 test. He made this claim as early as March, and again on Monday.
Many areas of the U.S. are still reporting testing shortages, and tests are often limited to people in certain circumstances, such as front-line workers or people showing symptoms, even though the virus also spreads via people who are asymptomatic.
Widespread testing capability is a key part of reopening the economy, public health experts have warned.
Trump claimed Friday with no evidence that many states have “excess testing capacity.”
“The testers are waiting for people to show up,” he said. “It’s great.”