“We will start distributing it immediately,” he said. “To the general public, immediately. When we go we go. We’re not looking to say gee in six months we’re going to start giving it to the general public. No, we want to go immediately. No, it was an incorrect statement.”
After the president’s public dressing down, Dr. Redfield tried to smooth over the rift by recalibrating his own answers from earlier in the day.
“I 100 percent believe in the importance of vaccines and the importance in particular of a Covid-19 vaccine,” he said in a statement. “A Covid-19 vaccine is the thing that will get Americans back to normal everyday life. 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.”
His agency issued a separate comment suggesting that Dr. Redfield’s answer on vaccine distribution had been misunderstood.
“In today’s hearing, Dr. Redfield was answering a question he thought was in regard to the time period in which all Americans would have completed their Covid vaccination, and his estimate was by the second or third quarter of 2021,” the statement said. “He was not referring to the time period when Covid-19 vaccine doses would be made available to all Americans.”
But in fact, Dr. Redfield’s initial answer mirrored comments by other officials. Just last week, the C.D.C. told public health agencies that two million doses of a vaccine may be available by the end of October, with 10 to 20 million doses possibly available by November, and 20 to 30 million by the end of December, a fraction of the 100 million Mr. Trump promised.
“We may have enough vaccine by the end of the year to immunize probably, I would say, between 20 and 25 million people,” Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the top scientist on Operation Warp Speed, told NPR this month. “And then we will ramp up the manufacturing of vaccine doses to be able to, based on our plans, have enough vaccine to immunize the U.S. population by the middle of 2021.”
Reporting was contributed by Michael Crowley and Noah Weiland from Washington, Maggie Haberman from New York, and David Halbfinger from Jerusalem.