In an ongoing effort to politicize the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, President Donald Trump claimed Thursday that unnamed officials had plotted a “political hit” and were conspiring to slow vaccine development to hinder his reelection bid.
“They are trying to do a little bit of a political hit. ‘Let’s delay the vaccine just a little bit.’ Did you notice that?” Trump told supporters at a rally in Jacksonville, Florida.
The comments are a kind of vague conspiracy about unnamed detractors, that appears to suggest officials in his own government are meddling in a process over which they have no purview — or to suggest that an agency committed to science is overrun by officials with a political agenda to take down the President.
It wouldn’t be the first time he’s made such a suggestion.
The comments extend an effort by Trump to undermine science amid a pressure campaign to deliver a vaccine victory before the election following an ongoing attack on the Food and Drug Administration, which he suggested last month was part of a “deep state” conspiracy to undermine his re-election chances.
Even if a vaccine makes an early debut, leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Thursday said that a “large proportion” of the U.S. population will not be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus this year.
His comments during a Facebook Live event pushed back on President Trump’s repeated rosy claims about a timeline about a safe and effective vaccine release and wide distribution.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield has also testified to Congress that it is unlikely that a vaccine will be widely available before next spring or summer. In testimony last week, Redfield said that any vaccine finalized this year will be in “very limited supply and will have to be prioritized” for particularly vulnerable groups.
Trump contradicted Redfield’s estimate for the widespread release of a vaccine, saying that it would happen before the end of the year. Trump has also said that “every American” will have access to a vaccine by April.
On Wednesday, Trump made similar accusations of a “political move” being made by health experts at the FDA following reported efforts to issue stricter guidelines for evaluating a coronavirus vaccine, suggesting that stricter guidelines needed to first be “approved by the White House.”
“I think that was a political move more than anything else,” Trump said.