As the country's coronavirus death toll approached 200,000, top administration officials on Sunday cautiously overturned President Trump's ambitious statement last week that a coronavirus vaccine would be available to all Americans by April.
Instead, Brett P. Giroir manages instead. , who leads the national test work, and Alex M. Azar II, Secretary of Health and Human Services, offered a slightly more conservative schedule for vaccine availability.
Both seemed to defend the predictions of experts, including Dr. Robert R Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was publicly reprimanded by the president for estimating that an effective vaccine might not be widely available to the public until mid-term. of next year.
However, he said that the president was right in saying that" We could have as many as a hundred million doses by the end of this year. That is correct. "
" I think everyone is right, "said Admiral Giroir.
Mr Trump has often promised that the United States would produce a vaccine before election day on November 3. But his optimism and estimates of widespread availability are disputed. White House on Friday at a news conference, Trump said that once a vaccine is approved, "distribution will begin within 24 hours of notice."
He added: "We will have produced at least 100 million vaccine doses by the end of year. And probably much more than that. Hundreds of millions of doses will be available each month, and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April.
That means delivering vaccines to an estimated 330 million Americans by spring.
These statements have driven public caution over a rushed vaccine, evident in recent polls that show a eroded confidence in a coronavirus vaccine. In a new ABC News / Ipsos poll, fewer than one in ten Americans had high confidence in the president's ability to confirm vaccine efficacy; 18 percent reported only a "good amount" of trust.
And in an apparent response to calls for transparency that could address these concerns, several vaccine manufacturers publicly released traditionally secret protocols over the past week. This effort is also aimed at curbing researchers' fears that the accelerated timetables that are being discussed may lead to a vaccine that is either unsafe, does not work or has not been fully investigated.
The question of politics is paramount science in the course of a vaccine and research on treatments has threatened the Trump administration for several months. And Mr. Azar has been a focal point for such criticism, and has drawn attention again this weekend after issuing a fantastic declaration of authority which prevented the country's health agencies from signing new rules on the country's food, medicines, medical equipment and other products, including vaccines.
Public health experts and lawmakers have expressed alarm at other HHS policies introduced by Mr. Azar and his deputies: censorship and amendment of the C.D.C. researchers' reports on the virus; a recent contretemps over testing of asymptomatic humans; and override the Food and Drug Administration by promoting largely untested treatments or laboratory tests.
Mr. Azar did not address the uprising over his attempts to clear decisions made by C.D.C. and F.D.A. during the pandemic, nor did he talk about his new order limiting the authority of agencies.
But both Admiral Giroir and Mr. Azar also reiterated the need for the public to wear masks, a practice the president often mocks. Trump's recent campaign hits are full of supporters who do not wear face masks, contrary to the requirements for masks in some locations.
On the question of testing, Admiral Giroir seemed to come down to the side of the CDC, with a clear recommendation to test people without symptoms, a question of conflict between the White House and the agency.
Documents obtained by The New York Times showed that top government officials had posted recommendations on the agency's website that people without symptoms did not need testing even when exposed to someone infected with the virus.
Admiral Giroir told CNN that the government had supported surge testing for 19 different cities, "primarily focusing on the younger population who could be asymptomatic because we know they are very important in the spread of this infection."  Masks have also been a point of contention, once again, Mr. Trump collided with Dr. Redfield last week about the value of masks, saying that Dr. Redfield was wrong when he compared the value of masks to a vaccine.
Mr. Azar told Chuck Todd on NBC's "Meet the Press" that masks were clearly important. "I think the point the president made is that there is no similarity between masks and vaccines," he said.  He was asked on Sunday if the White House had forced him to hire Michael Caputo, assistant secretary of public affairs at HHS who had no public health experience.Mr. Caputo went on medical leave last week after posting a Facebook video where he pray owed researchers at C.D.C. of "incitement" and warned of a left-wing uprising after the presidential election. Mr. Caputo later lamented the tirade, in which he said: "There are scientists working for this government who do not want America to recover, not until after Joe Biden is president."
Mr. Azar said he would not discuss personnel matters and added: "Our thoughts and prayers are with Michael. He added value and helped with our Covid response.