During the first presidential debate of the 2020 general election, President Donald Trump tried to reassure viewers of his Covid-19 response by promising that he was ready to distribute a vaccine: “We have all the military in place. Logistically, they are all configured. We have our troops delivering soldiers and they can deliver 200,000 a day. They will deliver the vaccine. “
In reality, that would be a derisory amount of vaccine distribution. At a rate of 200,000 immunizations per day, it would take more than 1,650 days – nearly five years – to immunize the entire country. If everyone needed two doses, which could be the case with the first generation of vaccines, it would take over nine years.
Presumably, Trump said the military would play an additional role in other efforts, with hospitals, family doctors, pharmacies and others distributing the vaccine alongside the military. But if the military piece is truly the culmination of Trump’s plan, the math shows it’s so small it shouldn’t reassure anyone.
Trump has also claimed the United States will have a vaccine in the coming weeks, echoing previous comments he has made that a vaccine will be ready in October. In the past, he has also claimed that the vaccine will be available to everyone quickly – what he called “full distribution”. He repeated that last night, saying, “Well, we’re going to deliver it right now.”
If you talk to experts, including some in the Trump administration, they don’t agree with Trump’s assessment in all areas. It is possible, if not likely, that we will get a vaccine by the end of the year, but October is far too early for the necessary ongoing trials to end, with November or December much more likely.
Even once a vaccine is approved by federal regulators and made available, supply will be limited. And the distribution process will likely be extremely difficult and slow for the first generation of vaccines. (One of the big challenges: One of the major vaccine candidates in the United States must be stored at temperatures as low as -94 degrees Fahrenheit, which requires freezing equipment that even some advanced facilities do not have.)
This is why many experts estimate that the vaccination process could last until 2021 – and potentially 2022 or 2023. This means that the Covid-19 pandemic could last for up to years, even afterwards if we receive a vaccine. , and could remain a major problem until the next round of elections.
Covid-19 “will continue to be a problem in the next midterms,” Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University School of Public Health told me. “It’s not going away.”
It would be one thing if Trump had done anything to assure the American public that he has the pandemic under control. Maybe it would have given him some confidence in how he and his administration are going to set up a vaccine.
But Trump has done the opposite, repeatedly shaking up his response to the coronavirus: he has deliberately played down the pandemic, demanded states reopen too quickly, launched testing and traceability issues to local and state governments with more limited resources than the federal government, made fun of the masks, and tried to politicize public health institutions instead of letting science lead the response.
As a result, America has more than 200,000 deaths from Covid-19 – by far the highest recorded death toll in the world. Taking population into account, the United States did not have the highest death rate for Covid-19, but it is among the richest 20% of developed countries and has seven times the death rate of median developed country. If the United States had the same Covid-19 death rate as, say, Canada, more than 120,000 more Americans would likely be alive today.
Trump, however, has repeatedly refused to admit fault or guilt. This continued in last night’s debate, in which he tried to pass the blame: “It’s China’s fault. It should never have happened. They prevented him from entering, but it was China’s fault.
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