Trump hails vaccine progress in first public remarks since election defeat, but no mention of Joe Biden or losing
Donald Trump has hailed developments in the race for a coronavirus vaccine as he delivered his first public remarks since his election defeat by President-elect Joe Biden.
Mr Trump, who is still refusing to concede, spoke from the White House Rose Garden as the US sets records for confirmed cases of Covid-19 and deaths climb to the highest levels since the spring.
He said a vaccine would ship in “a matter of weeks” to vulnerable populations, though the Food and Drug Administration has not yet been asked to grant the necessary emergency approvals.
In addition, there is no information yet as to whether the vaccine worked in vulnerable populations or only in younger, healthier study volunteers.
Public health experts worry that Mr Trump’s refusal to take aggressive action on the pandemic or to coordinate with the Biden team during the final two months of his presidency will only worsen the effects of the virus and hinder the nation’s ability to swiftly distribute a vaccine next year.
And as cases reach new heights, Mr Trump’s campaign prediction that the US was “rounding the turn” on the pandemic has met a harsh reality, with his own White House becoming the focus of yet another outbreak.
Mr Trump’s aggressive travel despite the virus has taken its toll on his protectors as well.
The US Secret Service is experiencing a significant number of cases, many believed to be linked to his rallies in the closing days of the campaign, according to one official.
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, meanwhile, said Mr Trump is “not even at that point yet” when it comes to conceding to Mr Biden.
Mr Trump has levelled baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud, even as his own administration has said there is no evidence to support the claims.
His aides suggest he is merely trying to keep his base of supporters on his side in defeat.
Mr Trump spoke with conservative media on Friday, including Fox News’s Geraldo Rivera, suggesting he would acknowledge the loss only after exhausting his legal options.
“You know, he told me he was a realist,” Mr Rivera said. “He told me he would do the right thing.”
With more than 100,000 new confirmed US cases reported daily for more than a week, Mr Trump has been more focused on tracking the rollout of a vaccine, which will not be widely available for months.
He has fumed that Pfizer intentionally withheld an announcement about progress on its vaccine trial until after Election Day, according to a White House official. Pfizer said it did not purposely withhold trial results.
Mr Trump, aiming to settle political scores, said he would not ship vaccines to hard-hit New York until Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo signs off, noting that the state has promised to do its own review to ensure their safety. “The governor will let us know when he’s ready,” Mr Trump said.
Although the president has consistently played down the pandemic, which has killed more than 240,000 Americans and infected more than 10 million people in the US, public health experts expressed worry about Mr Trump’s silence on the troubling spike in cases, as well as his refusal to begin coordination on virus issues with Mr Biden’s transition team.
“It’s a big problem,” said Dr Abraar Karan, a global health specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School.
“The transition is not going to happen until January, and we are in a complete crisis right now. We already knows where this is headed. It’s not good enough to say we’re going to wait until the next president to address this.”