Donald Trump berates senior health official over vaccines and masks


Donald Trump has repeatedly contradicted the senior US health official on the timing of distributing a coronavirus vaccine to the general public and the effectiveness of masks in stopping the spread of the disease.

The US president said Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, was mistaken in telling Congress that a vaccine would not be widely available until the middle of next year.

“We think we can start [distributing a vaccine] somewhere in October, mid-October. It could be a little later. As soon as he gave the green light, ”he said at a press conference Wednesday evening.

Mr Trump added: “I think he made a mistake and he said it was just incorrect information. . . I think maybe he confused the post, maybe it was misstated. No, we are ready to go immediately.

He said he thought Dr Redfield might also have been wrong in suggesting that wearing a face mask might be more effective in stopping the spread of the virus than a vaccine, depending on the level of immunity that it gives to people who have been vaccinated.

“When I called Robert today, I said to him: what is the mask? He said, I think I answered that question incorrectly, ”Mr. Trump said.

The president said 100 million doses of the vaccine would be available by the end of the year. The president’s coronavirus adviser Scott Atlas has said 700 million doses of the vaccine will be available by March.

During his testimony in Congress, Dr Redfield urged Americans to continue wearing masks, adding, “We have clear scientific evidence that they work. I could even go so far as to say that this face mask is safer to protect me against Covid than when I take a Covid vaccine. ”

He added, “If I don’t get an immune response, the vaccine won’t protect me. This mask will. ”

Although Mr Trump said Dr Redfield had “misunderstood the matter”, the CDC director’s remarks on the relative advantages of masks over vaccines have not been solicited.

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Shortly after Mr. Trump’s press conference ended, Dr Redfield made a statement on Twitter in which he said he believed “100%” in the importance of a Covid-19 vaccine. .

He added: “A Covid-19 vaccine is what will bring Americans back to normal everyday life. The best defense we currently have against this virus are the significant mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing hands, social distancing, and minding crowds. ”

Dr Redfield did not say he was wrong, nor did he respond about a vaccine that would not be widely available until mid-2021.

The president’s rebuke of Dr Redfield comes amid wider tensions between key Trump political advisers and government scientists tasked with formulating his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier Wednesday, Michael Caputo, the communications chief for the US Department of Health, resigned his post after accusing government scientists of being part of a criminal plot to undermine the president.

Mr Caputo will stay away from his post for 60 days, the department said on Wednesday, days after recording a Facebook video in which he accused public health professionals of forming a seditious “resistance unit” to harm to Mr. Trump and help his Democratic rival Joe Biden.

Mr Caputo’s video has been widely criticized by public health officials, including Dr Redfield.

Mr Caputo said in the video: “There are scientists working for this government who don’t want America to recover, not until Joe Biden is president. But he also suggested he had some health issues, saying his “sanity has definitely failed.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Caputo blamed a “lymphatic problem” for the stress he said he was under, adding that he had to take sick leave to “carry out the necessary screenings”.

He reportedly apologized to staff for their comments.

Dr Redfield told a Senate committee he was “deeply saddened” by Mr Caputo’s remarks. Hours later, the health department announced Mr. Caputo’s temporary departure, stating, “Michael Caputo has decided to take time off to focus on his health and the well-being of his family.”

Paul Alexander, the health professor Mr Caputo hired to advise him on medical matters and who has been accused of attempting to interfere with CDC publications, would also be leaving his post, the department said.


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