US President Donald Trump has told a town hall meeting that he thinks a coronavirus vaccine will be developed “by the end of this year”.
Mr Trump also said during the event sponsored by Fox News Channel that his government was putting its “full power and might” behind remdesivir, a drug that has shown early promise as a treatment for the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
In response to a question from a Nebraska man who has recovered from Covid-19, Mr Trump said: “We think we are going to have a vaccine by the end of this year.”
We have to safely reopen our great Country! pic.twitter.com/qVCHr8SBd0
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 4, 2020
US health experts have repeatedly said a vaccine is probably a year to 18 months away, though the White House coronavirus task force’s doctor Anthony Fauci said late last month that a vaccine could conceivably be in wide distribution as early as January.
During Monday’s town hall from the Lincoln Memorial, Mr Trump also increased his projection for the total US death total to 80,000 or 90,000 — up by more than 20,000 fatalities from what he had suggested just a few weeks ago — and struck a note of urgency over the economy, declaring “we have to reopen our country”.
He said: “We have to get it back open safely but as quickly as possible.”
The town hall came after intelligence documents showed US officials believe China covered up the extent of the coronavirus outbreak — and how contagious the disease is — to stock up on medical supplies needed to respond to it.
Chinese leaders “intentionally concealed the severity” of the pandemic from the world in early January, according to a four-page Department of Homeland Security report dated May 1 and obtained by the Associated Press.
The Trump administration has continued to intensify its criticism of China, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo saying on Sunday that China was responsible for the spread of disease and must be held accountable.
The sharper rhetoric against China coincides with administration critics saying the government’s response to the virus was inadequate and slow.
Mr Trump’s political opponents have accused the president and his administration of lashing out at China, a geopolitical foe but critical US trade partner, in an attempt to deflect criticism at home.