President Donald Trump said the the U.S. will overcome the coronavirus crisis with or without an effective vaccine, claiming that the disease will “go away at some point” either way.
“We think we’re going to have a vaccine in the pretty near future, and if we do we’re going to really be a big step ahead,” Trump told a reporter Friday at a White House event detailing U.S. efforts to develop a vaccine.
“And if we don’t, we’re going to be like so many other cases where you had a problem come in, it’ll go away at some point, it’ll go away,” Trump said. “It may flare up and it may not flare up, we’ll have to see what happens, but if it does flare up we’re going to put out the fire and we’ll put it out quickly and efficiently. We’ve learned a lot.”
The president had been asked about his comments earlier in the event, when he said, “Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back. And we’re starting the process. In many cases, they don’t have vaccines and a virus or a flu comes and you fight through it.”
Trump’s remarks downplaying the need for a vaccine came during an a Rose Garden announcement unveiling his administration’s beefed-up efforts to fast-track the development and distribution of a vaccine for Covid-19. The new project, dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” aims to have hundreds of millions of doses of an effective vaccine available by the end of the year.
Trump formally announced that former pharmaceutical executive Moncef Slaoui and four-star Army Gen. Gustave Perna will help lead the Warp Speed project.
Slaoui and Perna both said at the event that they are “confident” the project will be able to achieve its ambitious goals. But Perna acknowledged that it will be a “Herculean task” to develop a distribute a vaccine in such a short time frame.
Experts and political leaders alike have say that the U.S. won’t be able to recover from the pandemic until a vaccine is widely available.
There are more than 100 vaccines under development globally, according to the World Health Organization. Trump said Friday that 14 of those candidates are being looked at closely. At least eight vaccines are currently in human trials.
Health regulators have fast-tracked approvals for coronavirus research and development, allowing scientists to skip through months of red tape on potential vaccines for the virus.
Last week, biotechology firm Moderna announced that it was wrapping up phase 1 human trials on its potential vaccine with the U.S. government and is moving to start phase 2 trials that would include 600 participants. If the vaccine is found to be effective and safe to use, it could be ready for the market in early 2021, the company said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, said in congressional testimony Tuesday that he was optimistic scientists would find a workable candidate, but warned of potential pitfalls in developing any vaccine.
Scientists warn they are still learning about the deadly virus, including how the body’s immune system responds once a person has been exposed to it. The answers may have large implications for vaccine development, including the time frame in which a vaccine can be deployed to the public.
Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, appeared behind Trump in the Rose Garden wearing face masks. Trump did not wear a mask.
The U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from Covid-19 than any other country: more than 1.4 million cases and at least 85,906 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Trump has said for months that the coronavirus would go away.
“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear,” Trump said on Feb. 28.
“We’re prepared, and we’re doing a great job with it. And it will go away. Just stay calm. It will go away,” he said on March 10.
“We need a little a separation until such time as this goes away. It’s going to go away,” he said on March 12.
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