President Donald Trump boasted during this week’s debate that the military could administer 200,000 COVID-19 vaccines a day when one is ready — a feat that would still mean years before every American got a vaccine.
During the debate section on the coronavirus pandemic, Trump touted his plan to distribute a future coronavirus vaccine while saying he disagrees with his administration’s health experts’ expected timeline for having one that’s widely available to the public.
“We’re going to deliver it right away,” the president said after stating he thinks one could be ready by Nov. 1. “We have the military all set up. Logistically they’re all set up. We have our military that delivers soldiers and they can do 200,000 a day.”
Trump has repeatedly contradicted public health officials about the future of a vaccine.
Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said earlier this month it would likely be next spring or summer before a vaccine is widely available. Trump later said Redfield was mistaken and that it would be available by the end of this year. Dr. Anthony Fauci, White House coronavirus adviser, has said it may be early 2021 before a vaccine is ready.
It’s unclear what Trump intended the military’s role to be with the vaccine, as health professionals would also likely help administer the vaccines to the public.
But if Trump’s promise of 200,000 vaccines a day did come to fruition, it would still take several years to vaccinate every American.
The United States has a population of 329,877,505 as of July 2020, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It would take roughly 1,649 days — or about 4.5 years — to vaccinate the entire population at a rate of 200,000 shots a day.
Clinical trials have suggested more than one dose of the vaccine might be necessary to be effective, McClatchy News reports, meaning it would take even longer to reach every American. If two doses are needed, the timeline could look more like nine years.
Once a vaccine is ready, the process is still far from over. The doses must be manufactured and then shipped across the country to hospitals, doctor’s offices and pharmacies before they can reach the public in coordination with the CDC and state and local health departments, The Atlantic reports.
“The COVID situation is significantly different and more complex than anything that we have had to deal with in the past,” Kris Ehresmann, infectious disease director at the Minnesota Department of Health, said, according to The Atlantic.
After Trump’s comment during the debate, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden pointed to Trump’s previous statements about when the pandemic would be over.
“This is the same man who told you by Easter this would be gone away — by the warm weather it would be gone like a miracle,” Biden said.
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