Outgoing US President Donald Trump says a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to millions of Americans by April – except for virus-ravaged New York.
In his first public remarks since losing the election, Mr Trump praised his administration’s program, Operation Warp Speed, for its part in enabling Pfizer to research and develop its coronavirus vaccine.
That vaccine has yet to be approved, but clinical trials have shown it is 90 per cent effective in protecting against the virus.
The US government has promised Pfizer $US2 billion for the vaccine, once it’s ready. The certainty of that future pay-off has enabled the company to invest heavily in research and development.
“No medical breakthrough of this scope and magnitude has ever been achieved this quickly. And we’re very proud of it,” Mr Trump said.
“Operation Warp Speed is unequalled and unrivalled anywhere else in the world.
“This far exceeds any and all expectations.
“Our investment will make it possible for the vaccine to be provided by Pfizer free of charge.”
Coronavirus infections have risen much more sharply than the number of tests in the US. According to Johns Hopkins University, the country has now recorded more than 100,000 new cases ten days in a row, and it just passed 150,000 in a single day for the first time.
“By vaccinating the elderly and the high risk, we will effectively end this phase of the pandemic, and allow seniors to reclaim their golden years. It’s about time that they can have their golden years,” Mr Trump said.
“Millions of doses will soon be going out the door. They’re all ready, waiting for that final approval.”
Mr Trump said the virus would be available in the next five months – to almost everyone.
“As soon as April, the vaccine will be available to the entire general population, with the exception of places like New York State, where for political reasons the governor decided – I don’t think it is good politically, I think it is very bad from a health standpoint – but he wants to take his time on the vaccine,” Mr Trump said, citing remarks by the state’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.
“We won’t be delivering it to New York until we have authorisation to do so, and it pains me to say that.
“The governor will have to let us know when he’s ready for it. We can’t be delivering it to a state that won’t be giving it to its people immediately.
“He’s had some very bad editorials recently about this statement and what’s happened with respect to nursing homes. I hope he doesn’t handle this as badly as he’s handled the nursing homes.”
Mr Cuomo has been criticised for his initial response to the coronavirus, such as the decision to send infected people back into nursing homes, resulting in outbreaks among vulnerable populations.
“The good news is that the Pfizer tests look good and we’ll have a vaccine shortly,” Mr Cuomo said.
“The bad news is that it’s about two months before Joe Biden takes over, and that means this administration is going to be implementing a vaccine plan.”
He said the Trump administration’s plan for rolling out the virus was “flawed”.
In Mr Trump’s speech today, he repeated some of his more frequent boasts from the campaign trail, such as his claim that America’s economic contraction due to the pandemic was the smallest among Western nations and had been followed by the fastest recovery.
“We went down less, and we went up more, which is quite a combination of facts,” he said.
This does, however, appear to be false, with America’s numbers on these metrics far from the worst in the developed world, but also not the best.
Mr Trump also said he would not be imposing any lockdowns due to the current surge in infections. He alluded, briefly, to the election result.
“I will not be going to a lockdown. Hopefully the, the ah – 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.
“The cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. I’ve said it many times.
“When you look at what happens during a lockdown, I say it very loudly, it’s horrible.
“This administration will not go, under any circumstances, into lockdown.”
He asked Americans to “remain vigilant”, especially heading into winter.