AILSA CHANG, HOST:
The Trump Administration released a plan today for distributing a future coronavirus vaccine, but officials have been offering conflicting information on the timeline of that rollout. Earlier in the day, CDC Director Robert Redfield testified that the vaccine would be widely available late next year, though he did say first responders may get it sooner. Then this afternoon, President Trump said the government could begin distributing a vaccine as early as next month.
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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor said.
CHANG: All right. NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson joins us now with more.
MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Hey there, Ailsa.
CHANG: So just walk us through this. What exactly did President Trump say about the vaccine rollout this afternoon?
LIASSON: Well, the problem was is that what he said didn't jibe with what his own CDC director said.
LIASSON: The president said they're ready to go. He said the vaccine is going to be extremely strong, extremely powerful and extremely successful. It could come in the next couple of weeks, could be before the election. And, of course, he was asked a lot of questions about why did he not seem to be on the same page than his own CDC director. And he had an answer for that. And here's what he said.
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TRUMP: I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information. And I called him, and he didn't tell me that. And I think he got the message maybe confused. Maybe it was stated incorrectly. No, we're ready to go immediately.
LIASSON: So the CDC director is wrong and confused. Once again, the president is at odds with his own scientists. That seems to be a feature not a bug of the Trump administration's pandemic response.
CHANG: OK. And I understand that the president's own health adviser, Dr. Scott Atlas, also spoke this afternoon. What timeline did he give?
LIASSON: Well, he gave a timeline that was much more consistent with what Dr. Redfield of the CDC had said. He said there will be 700 million doses by the end of Q1. He kept on talking Q1. And the reporters would say, you mean March because that's the end of quarter one.
LIASSON: And he agreed with that, but he kept on using the term Q1. Maybe that sounded better than saying that the vaccine would not be available to the broad general public until spring of next year. But that's what he said, which is not inconsistent with what Dr. Redfield said. Although, he did say that elderly minority communities will be prioritized and maybe could get the vaccine sooner.
CHANG: OK. I understand that the president also spoke today about masks. What exactly did he say on that front?
LIASSON: That was another place that he differed from Dr. Redfield, who testified before Congress that masks were more important than a vaccine. He said that was - the president totally disagrees with that. He says a mask is going to - vaccines are more important than masks. Masks, he said, were a mixed bag. Some people don't like masks. Last night, at a town hall meeting with voters on ABC, he was asked, what people don't like masks? He said, waiters and restaurants don't like masks. So again, you know, he said Dr. Redfield was confused when he gave that answer about masks, even though what Dr. Redfield said comports with what the vast majority of scientists say; that masks are very important to stop the spread of COVID. So once again, Dr. Redfield is wrong, and he's confused. But when asked if he still had confidence in him, the president said yes.
CHANG: That is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.
Thank you, Mara.
LIASSON: Thank you.
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