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Trump doubles down on vaccine timeline, contradicts top expert

Polls show a majority of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of the pandemic.

President Donald Trump expressed renewed confidence Wednesday that a viable Covid-19 vaccine would be ready by October, directly contradicting a top administration health expert and facing fierce criticism from his Democratic election rival Joe Biden.

Trump sowed confusion about the issue with an extraordinary public rebuke of one of his top health experts who said masks were a leading weapon for fighting the pandemic and that a vaccine was unlikely to be widely available until mid-2021.

“I think he made a mistake when he said that. That’s just incorrect information,” Trump told reporters referring to Senate testimony by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield.

“We’re very close to that vaccine as you know… We think we can start sometime in October” or shortly thereafter, Trump said.

“I believe he was confused,” he said of Redfield. “I am just telling you we are ready to go as soon as the vaccine happens.”

Redfield told lawmakers Wednesday that a “very limited” distribution to priority groups including first responders could begin in November and December, but that full implementation would take many more months at least.

“I think we’re probably looking at late second quarter, third quarter 2021” before a safe and effective vaccine would be available to the general public, he added.

Redfield tweeted his support for a potential vaccine Wednesday evening, but cautioned Americans to be vigilant about mitigating viral spread in the meantime.

“The best defense we currently have against this virus are the important mitigation efforts of wearing a mask, washing your hands, social distancing and being careful about crowds. #COVID19”

The contradiction between Trump and health experts on an issue that has become a focal point of the 2020 election campaign highlighted the lack of trust Biden said he and the public have in the president’s handling of the pandemic, which has killed nearly 200,000 Americans.

“When I said I trust vaccines, and I trust the scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump — this is what I meant,” Biden tweeted after Trump’s remarks.

Barely an hour earlier the Democratic nominee said Trump’s refusal to take key steps to tackle the pandemic, like instituting national guidelines on social distancing and testing, were…

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