US President Donald Trump on Friday, during his first public remarks since his defeat by President-elect Joe Biden, said a vaccine for COVID-19 would ship in “a matter of weeks” to vulnerable populations, though the Food and Drug Administration has not yet been asked to grant the necessary emergency approvals. Trump’s statement on the availability of coronavirus vaccine comes as the United States sets records for confirmed cases of COVID-19 and as hospitalizations near critical levels and fatalities climb to the highest levels since the spring.
Meanwhile, public health experts worry that Trump’s refusal to take aggressive action on the pandemic or to coordinate with the Biden team during the final two months of his presidency will only worsen the effects of the virus and hinder the nation’s ability to swiftly distribute a vaccine next year.
As states impose new restrictions in the face of rising caseloads, Trump asked all Americans to remain “vigilant.” But he ruled out a nationwide “lockdown” and appeared to acknowledge that the decision won’t be his much longer.
“This administration will not be going to a lockdown,” he said. “Hopefully whatever happens in the future, who knows, which administration it will be I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown.”
Biden, for his part, has not endorsed a nationwide shutdown, but he appealed for Trump to take “urgent action” to curtail the spread of the virus. “The crisis does not respect dates on the calendar, it is accelerating right now,” he said in a statement Friday.
Trump said vaccines would “arrive within a few weeks,” saying they were ready and merely awaiting approval — and would be given “to high-risk individuals right away.”
In fact, there’s no guarantee that Pfizer’s shot, the front-runner, will get rapid authorization for emergency use. Even if it does, there’s no information yet indicating if the vaccine works in older adults or just younger, healthier adults. Nor does Pfizer have a large commercial stockpile already poised to ship; initial batches of shots would be small and targeted to certain still-to-be-determined populations.
(With inputs from AP)