President Donald Trump and White House advisers have said for months that hundreds of millions of coronavirus vaccine doses would be “ready to go” by Election Day. But three days out, health experts are saying COVID-19 vaccinations were just another dubious campaign promise.
Trump and White House Coronavirus Task Force head, Vice President Mike Pence, have vowed since the first week of March to have a COVID-19 vaccine available “very soon.” But on Friday—three days before an Election Day, and despite the president’s assertion—the U.S. set a worldwide record for the highest single-day number of coronavirus cases. Medical experts ranging from New York City emergency room physician Craig Spencer to molecular medicine professor Eric Topol—and even Dr. Anthony Fauci— said the failure to deliver a COVID-19 vaccine by Election Day was expected.
“So we’re going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special date. You know what date I’m talking about,” Trump said on September 7, accusing FDA and CDC health experts of playing politics with the Election Day goal.
Topol warned Americans in early September that Trump’s coronavirus vaccine vows by Election Day were “virtually impossible,” as Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies detailed how the “warp speed” trial process much actually be much slower to ensure a safe vaccine. Pfizer said earlier this month no vaccine is likely before late November.
Trump started saying “we’re going to have a vaccine soon” on March 6th and today we’re nowhere close to one and recorded the highest number of daily cases since the start of the pandemic SEVEN months later.#WearAMask #Vote pic.twitter.com/wC3rfB8ysD
— Robert De Niro áµáµÊ³áµáµÊ¸ (@RobertDeNiroUS) October 30, 2020
The president has blamed numerous health experts for his administration’s inability to oversee the rollout of a vaccine before November 3, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the “deep state” and a “confused” CDC director.
Physicians criticized on Trump Friday after he told Michigan campaign rallygoers that doctors are overcounting COVID-19 deaths to make money. Earlier this month, Trump accused the FDA of a “political hit job,” after officials in the agency said it would be difficult to “speed up” safe vaccine trials before Election Day.
The day Trump was released from the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for COVID-19 treatment, he declared of the vaccine: “I think we should have it before the election. But frankly, the politics gets involved, and that’s OK, they want to play games. It’s going to be right after the election.”
Dr. Tom Frieden, infectious disease expert and former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), blasted Trump’s continued claims that coronavirus vaccines are imminent, saying the deliberate disinformation makes this the “Scariest. Halloween. Ever.”
“There IS one thing that can stop Covid. For months I’ve said there isn’t, but there is one thing. Not masks. Not travel limitations. Not staying home. Not testing. Not contact tracing. Not isolation. Not quarantine. Not even vaccine. It’s TRUST,” Dr. Frieden tweeted.
Frieden and Spencer were among numerous physicians across the globe who have criticized the Trump administration bringing in Dr. Scott Atlas, former Stanford neuroradiology chief, who blamed “media hysteria” for the pandemic being viewed so negatively. Atlas, pushing back against remarks by Fauci that a vaccine could take many months, touted “natural herd immunity” as his primary focus.
The CDC says November 15 is when states should be ready to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, but independent medical advisers say that is a very aspirational date at best. NPR reported Saturday that it’s up to the FDA to give emergency authorization to distribute any vaccine, and none of the four U.S. companies currently in the final phase of clinical studies have applied for authorization.
“The deep state, or whoever, over at the FDA is making it very difficult for drug companies to get people in order to test the vaccines and therapeutics. Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!” Trump tweeted on August 22.
The United States set a worldwide record for the highest single-day number of cases recorded for any country, with U.S. officials reporting 99,321 new COVID-19 cases Friday. India held the previous record for new cases in one day back on September 17, when the government reported 97,894 had emerged. Thirty-one states set single-day records for new infections in the month of October alone, with Iowa becoming the 31st state to do so Friday.
Six months ago, in late April, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced there were 70 coronavirus vaccines in development across the globe, with Cambridge, Massachusetts, biotechnology company Moderna being one of the first in the world to begin human trials. Moderna announced Thursday they will have 20 million coronavirus vaccines ready—by the end of the year.
The American Medical Association on Friday (AMA) blasted Trump over his Michigan rally claim that doctors and hospitals are inflating death tolls for financial gain: “The suggestion is … a malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided charge.”
Political critics have also joined in on criticizing Trump’s Election Day vaccine promise as another unfulfilled political talking point akin to the southern border wall. “A safe vaccine will be delivered in just a matter of weeks,” Trump told speech attendees in Rochester, Minnesota, Friday evening.
Yet, “I was told by president trump that there would be a vaccine before Election Day. What happened with that?” asked Daily Beast editor Molly Jong-Fast.
“Hey @realDonaldTrump You said the vaccine would be here before election so should we expect Sunday or Monday?” physician Don Winslow tweeted at the president Saturday morning. “Where’s the vaccine?”
Dr. Renuga Vivekanandan, infectious disease physician with CHI Health and Creighton University, told KSNB-TV Wednesday that the first rollout of any vaccine after trials creates anxiety, but vaccines are safe by the time they are offered to the public. Instead, she advised concerned people to focus on what they can do such as getting a flu shot ahead of the winter season, social distancing, mask-wearing and maintaining good daily hygiene.
Newsweek reached out to the FDA and the White House for additional remarks Saturday morning.