U.S. Health Officials Appear Before Senate Subcommittee, Launch Plan To Distribute Potential Coronavirus Vaccine; Trump Rejects Government Scientists’ Statements On Vaccines, Masks; Biden Questions Trump Administration’s Motivation To Approve Vaccine

The Hill: Trump health officials grilled over reports of politics in COVID-19 response
“Trump administration health officials were grilled by senators Wednesday about a cascade of reports on political interference in the federal government’s response to the pandemic. The officials sought to defend the scientific integrity of the administration’s response, while at times striking markedly different notes than President Trump, particularly on the importance of wearing masks. The Senate Appropriations health subcommittee hearing assessing the coronavirus response took place against a backdrop of turmoil in the administration, with news coming that same day that the top spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Michael Caputo, would be taking a 60-day leave of absence after he accused government scientists of forming a ‘resistance unit’ to Trump and urged supporters to arm themselves ahead of the Nov. 3 election…” (Sullivan, 9/16).

New York Times: Trump Scorns His Own Scientists Over Virus Data
“President Trump on Wednesday rejected the professional scientific conclusions of his own government about the prospects for a widely available coronavirus vaccine and the effectiveness of masks in curbing the spread of the virus as the death toll in the United States from the disease neared 200,000. In a remarkable display even for him, Mr. Trump publicly slapped down Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as the president promised that a vaccine could be available in weeks and go ‘immediately’ to the general public while diminishing the usefulness of masks despite evidence to the contrary. The president’s comments put him at odds with the CDC, the world’s premier public health agency, over the course of a pandemic that he keeps insisting is ’rounding the corner’ to an end…” (Baker et al., 9/16).

Washington Post: Top health official says states need about $6 billion from Congress to distribute coronavirus vaccine
“Trump administration officials released a detailed road map Wednesday of their plans to speed doses of a coronavirus vaccine into the arms of millions of Americans, as a top health official warned that Congress has yet to provide about $6 billion to help states prepare for what is expected to be the largest vaccination campaign ever undertaken. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a Senate panel that his agency, which is playing a lead role in vaccine distribution, does not have the critical funds that states need for the distribution, which will take place in phases…” (Sun, 9/16).

Washington Post: Biden questions whether a vaccine approved by Trump would be safe
“Joe Biden on Wednesday expressed reservations about whether a coronavirus vaccine approved by the Trump administration would be safe, raising doubts about the president’s ability to put the health of Americans before politics. Biden said Americans should trust a coronavirus vaccine developed under the Trump administration only if the president gives ‘honest answers’ to questions about its safety, effectiveness, and equitable distribution. ‘I trust vaccines. I trust scientists. But I don’t trust Donald Trump,’ Biden said. ‘And at this point, the American people can’t, either.’ Biden also raised the possibility of President Trump pressuring agency officials to sign off on a vaccine that scientists are not yet confident in, to gain an electoral advantage…” (Sullivan/Goldstein, 9/16).

Additional coverage of the Senate Appropriations health subcommittee hearing and Trump’s and Biden’s comments is available from AP, CNN, Financial Times, The Hill (2), New York Times, POLITICO (2) (3), Roll Call (2), and Washington Post.

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