President Donald Trump said the U.S. government could start distributing a coronavirus vaccine as early as October, a much more optimistic estimate than its own health officials.
"As you know, we are very close to this vaccine and I think a lot closer than I think most people want to say," Trump said during a press conference at the White House on Wednesday. "We think we can start sometime in October. As soon as it's announced, we can start. That will be from mid-October. It can be a little later."
He said the US has made all the necessary supplies and health officials could distribute at least 100 million doses of vaccine by the end of the year. The vaccine could be distributed from October or November, but he said, "I don't think it will be too much later."
Trump's comment came as infectious disease experts and scientists have raised concerns over the past few weeks that the White House could pressurize the Food and Drug Administration to approve a vaccine before it is adequately tested. There are currently no approved vaccines, and at least three drug companies expect to know if their potential vaccines will work by the end of the year.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, said it was "conceivable" but the US is unlikely to receive a safe and effective vaccine by October.
Regardless of which vaccine is FDA approved, it will likely run short once it's cleared for public distribution, medical experts warn. The vaccine is likely to require two doses at different intervals, and states still face logistical challenges such as setting up distribution points and obtaining enough needles, syringes, and bottles needed for immunizations.
Earlier in the day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put in place a comprehensive plan to make vaccines for Covid-19 free for all Americans. In the plan, the CDC assumes that a coronavirus vaccine will receive emergency approval before full formal approval.
CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told lawmakers at a Senate hearing that he expected vaccinations to start in November or December, but in limited quantities, with those most in need receiving the first doses, such as: B. Healthcare Workers. He said it would take about "six to nine months" to vaccinate the entire American public.
Trump said Redfield was wrong when he said the vaccine wouldn't be available to the general public until next summer or early fall.
"I think he made a mistake saying this. It's just wrong information and I called him and he didn't tell me and I think he may have confused the message, maybe it was given incorrectly", said Trump. "We are up and running as the vaccine is announced and could be announced in October. It could be announced shortly after October, but as soon as we get started we will be ready."
Trump said he "got the impression" that Redfield "didn't understand" what he was saying.
"I didn't see him say that, but if he said that, then it's a mistake because … we are ready to distribute immediately to a large part of our country and beyond, but also because we want to help other countries We are ready to distribute immediately, "said Trump.
The CDC did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Trump's remark.
Trump also said he thinks drug manufacturers are having "tremendous success" with vaccines.
"The results will be early and strong. The safety has to be 100% and we will insist and companies will insist," he said.
As larger amounts of vaccines become available, there will be two concurrent goals, according to the CDC: to ensure widespread access to vaccination and to ensure high uptake in target populations, especially those at high risk of death or complications from Covid-19 .
"The CDC's goal is to have enough Covid-19 vaccine for everyone in the US who wants to be vaccinated," Redfield said.
Even if a vaccine can be distributed by the end of the year, numerous polls suggest that Americans would be reluctant to get one.
Only 42% of Americans say they would want a vaccine, according to a survey by the non-partisan Kaiser Family Foundation released this month. 60% to 80% of population epidemiologists say it is necessary to achieve what is known as herd immunity and to suppress the virus.
CNBC's Kevin Breuninger contributed to this article.