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Top health official tells Congress vaccine will take time, prompting Trump backlash

“It’s just incorrect information and I called him and he didn’t tell me that and I think he got the message maybe confused, maybe it was stated incorrectly.”

Trump believes the development of an effective vaccine would create optimism about the country’s ability to emerge from the crisis and boost his re-election chances on November 3.

“We’re on track to deliver and distribute the vaccine in a very, very safe and effective manner,” Trump said.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention boss Robert Redfield, right, said masks may be more effective prevention against the coronavirus than the vaccine.

Centres for Disease Control and Prevention boss Robert Redfield, right, said masks may be more effective prevention against the coronavirus than the vaccine. Credit:AP

“So as soon as it is announced, we’ll be able to start. That will be from mid-October on may be a little bit later than that, but we’ll be all set. So as soon as it’s given the go ahead.

“We’re not looking to say, ‘Gee, in six months we’ll start giving it to the general public’. No, we want to go immediately.”

In a speech earlier in the day, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden warned against any efforts to rush out an unfinished vaccine ahead of the election given the potential for harmful side effects.

“Let me be clear: I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump,” he said.

"I trust scientists": Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

“I trust scientists”: Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.Credit:AP

“Scientific breakthroughs don’t care about calendars any more than the virus does. They certainly don’t adhere to election cycles and their timing, their approval and their distribution should never, ever be distorted by political considerations.

“They should be determined by science and safety alone.”

Trump, who has repeatedly made overly-optimistic health and economic predictions during the pandemic, also clashed with Redfield over the effectiveness of masks as a way to stop the spread of the virus.

Redfield told the Senate that masks are the “most powerful public health tool” the nation has against the virus and might even provide better protection against it than a vaccine.

“We have clear scientific evidence they work, and they are our best defence,” Redfield said. “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.”

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But Trump replied: “I hope that the vaccine’s going to be a lot more beneficial than the masks. As far as the mask is concerned, he made a mistake.”

The US Food and Drug Administration has said that it will approve a vaccine if it can be shown to be safe and at least 50 per cent effective.

“If I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine’s not going to protect me,” Redfield said. “This face mask will.”

Three companies – Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca – have advanced to late-stage trials for potential coronavirus vaccines.

Over the weekend Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said the firm could potentially distribute a vaccine to Americans before the end of the year if it was found to be safe and effective. He expects to have key data from its late-stage trial to US health authorities by the end of October.

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