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Donald Trump contradicts CDC on vaccination

Denial mode: Donald Trump pointing to a COVID-19 chart as he briefs reporters at the White House.   | Photo Credit: LEAH MILLIS

U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday contradicted the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Robert Redfield on the efficacy of masks and the schedule for vaccine availability. Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House that Dr. Redfield had probably not understood the question on vaccine distribution correctly at a Senate hearing earlier on Wednesday. Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are soaring with over 6 million infections and around 200,000 deaths.

Also read: Trump seeks political shot in the arm in vaccine push

The President faces a tough contest for re-election in November and has proclaimed a vaccine would be available by the end of the year. Dr. Redfield, testifying with other officials at a U.S. Senate committee hearing on the government’s pandemic response, had told Senators that it would probably take until the “late second quarter, third quarter 2021” for the vaccine to be “fully available” to the American public so people could “get back to regular life”.

There will be an initial vaccine available sometime between November and December but it will be in “very limited supply” and just for priority use, Dr. Redfield said.

‘Incorrect information’

“I think he made a mistake when he said that... it’s just incorrect information,” Mr. Trump said about Dr. Redfield’s comments. Mr. Trump reiterated that vaccine distribution could start in October but “certainly during November and December would be the latest”. There would be a “very full distribution” as soon as the vaccine was ready. He said a “vast section”of the U.S. would receive the vaccine and then other countries as well. The President also contradicted Dr. Redfield on masks. The CDC chief , holding up a mask, had said masks were “the most important, powerful, public health tool we have”. The scientists appealed to all Americans to wear a mask and said if they did for 6-12 weeks, the pandemic could be brought under control.

“I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine because the immunogenicity may be 70% and if I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will,” Dr. Redfield said. During his testimony, the doctor also advised social distancing, hand washing and being cautious about crowds.

The President said he had spoken on the phone with Dr. Redford after the Senate Hearing about the scientist’s comments on masks and vaccinations. “It’s not more effective by any means than a vaccine and I called him [Dr. Redfield] about that...,” Mr. Trump said. “I believe that if you ask him he would probably say that he didn’t understand the question.”

Dr. Redfield showed no visible or verbal signs of confusion over the question at the hearing nor has he issued a statement to that effect following the President’s comments. At another point in Wednesday’s briefing, Mr. Trump said, “the mask may help” and that he hopes masks help. “But again, the mask is a mixed bag, there are some people, professionals... who don’t like the mask because of the touchiness... and then you’re touching everything else.”

Significant evidence that Mr. Trump downplayed the coronavirus threat and criticisms that he misled the public on its severity in January and February have emerged with the recent publication of investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s book Rage. A former White House official, Joe Grogan, had said the President did not want to create panic, the Washington Post reported.

India visit

As late as February 23 when the President was leaving the White House for Joint Base Andrews so he could board Air Force One to India, he had said the virus “very much under control”. As Mr. Trump travelled in India over the next two days — attending a rally with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad , visiting the Taj Mahal and participating in official events in New Delhi — the public in the U.S. was learning that the virus could be a more serious public health issue than Mr. Trump had let on.

Mr. Woodward writes, “...on February 25, as Trump boarded Air Force One to return from a state visit to India, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, Dr Nancy Messonier, issued a stark public warning,” that schools may be closed, people may need to work from home and that it the disruption to life may be “very severe.” “Trump on his way back to the U.S. from India, called Azar [ the Health Secretary] and threatened to fire Messonier.”

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Printable version | Nov 25, 2020 6:02:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/trump-contradicts-cdc-on-vaccination/article32633363.ece

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