Despite President Donald Trump’s claims Saturday that a COVID-19 “solution” would likely be available “long before the end of the year,” a member of the White House coronavirus task force refused Sunday to offer a timeline for the final development of a vaccine.
“I can’t predict when a vaccine will be available,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said on ABC’s “This Week” Sunday, adding, “Yes, we are seeing unprecedented speed for the development of a vaccine. But as you know … we issued guidance this past week about vaccine development, because we want to be very clear: our solemn promise to the American people is that we will make a decision based upon the data and science on a vaccine, with respect to the safety and effectiveness of that vaccine.”
“When those data become available, and I hope those data are available sooner rather than later, we will make that judgment based upon those data and that science,” he continued.
During a Fourth of July address in Washington on Saturday, Trump struck a more optimistic tone, both on the speed of virus treatment research and development, and on the impact COVID-19 is having upon individuals who test positive.
“We are unleashing our nation’s scientific brilliance and we’ll likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year,” Trump said, after earlier touting the nation’s testing efforts and claiming, without evidence, that “99%” of coronavirus cases “are totally harmless.”
Hahn was challenged about the latter assertion on “This Week” Sunday, by the show’s co-anchor Martha Raddatz, but refused to join the president in his characterization.
“We have more than 129,000 dead and more than 2.8 million cases, how many cases would you say are harmless?” Raddatz asked.
“What I’d say is, you know, any case, we don’t want to have in this country,” the commissioner said. “This is a very rapidly moving epidemic, a rapidly moving pandemic, and any death, any case is tragic, and we want to do everything we can to prevent that.”
Hahn, a trained radiation oncologist who became FDA commissioner in December 2019, said Thursday that he was “cautiously optimistic” about current efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine, pointing to either “years end or early next year” as potential completion dates.
Earlier in the week, the FDA issued an official set of recommendations to companies and researchers working to develop a vaccine.
“While the FDA is committed to expediting this work, we will not cut corners in our decisions and are making clear through this guidance what data should be submitted to meet our regulatory standards,” Hahn said in a statement. “This is particularly important, as we know that some people are skeptical of vaccine development efforts.”
COVID-19 cases in the United States continued to surge during the past week — as of Sunday morning, 2.8 million individuals have been diagnosed with the virus and nearly 130,000 have died, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, with large states such as California, Florida and Texas struggling to contain recent outbreaks.