Donald Trump has pledged that a vaccine to tackle the coronavirus will be available to the US public “by the end of the year” and pushed for the reopening of the states from lockdown despite revising his projection for the country’s death toll to as high as 100,000.
Speaking during a virtual town hall with Fox News in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, the president also said that his government was putting its “full power and might” behind remdesivir, a drug that has shown early promise as a treatment for the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
In response to a question from a Nebraska man who has recovered from Covid-19, Trump said: “We think we are going to have a vaccine by the end of this year.”
US health experts have repeatedly said a vaccine is probably a year to 18 months away, though the White House coronavirus task force’s Dr Anthony Fauci said late last month that a vaccine could conceivably be in wide distribution as early as January.
During Monday’s town hall, Trump also increased his projection for the total US death total to between 80,000 and 100,000 – up by more than 20,000 fatalities from what he had suggested just a few weeks ago.
The disease has sickened more than 1.1m people in the United States and killed more than 67,000.
“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people. That’s a horrible thing,” said the president, who, as recently as Friday had said he hoped fewer than 100,000 Americans would die and earlier in the week had talked about 60,000 to 70,000 deaths.
He countered that warning with an equally urgent address on the need to kickstart the economy, declaring “we have to reopen our country… We have to get it back open safely but as quickly as possible.”
“It is all working out,” he added in a more upbeat note. “It is horrible to go through, but it is working out.”