The Democratic vice-presidential candidate, Kamala Harris, has said she would not take US President Donald Trump at his word alone on the efficacy and safety of a potential coronavirus vaccine.
In an interview excerpt broadcast by CNN on Saturday, Harris was asked whether she would be willing to take a vaccine that is approved by the US government and distributed before election day on November 3.
“Well, I think that’s going to be an issue for all of us,” she responded.
“I will say that I would not trust Donald Trump and it would have to be a credible source of information that talks about the efficacy and the reliability of whatever he’s talking about,” she said in the excerpt from the State of the Union programme, which will air in full on Sunday.
Her comments come amid concerns from scientists, public health officials and some legislators that Trump would try to expedite a vaccine to be available before the presidential election.
Public health experts generally agree that a pre-election timeline for a properly tested vaccine is extremely unlikely.
To date, more than 6.2 million infections have been confirmed in the United States and at least 188,000 people have died – the highest numbers of any country in the world.
Public health officials have also raised concerns that the US could see a fresh spike of coronavirus cases following gatherings over the Labour Day holiday this weekend.
During the CNN interview, Harris also said she did not believe scientists and public health experts connected to the Trump administration would be able to accurately relay the safety of a vaccine to the public.
“If past is prologue [then] they will not. They’ll be muzzled, they’ll be suppressed, they will be sidelined,” Harris said.
“Because he’s looking at an election coming up in less than 60 days and he’s grasping for whatever he can get to pretend that he has been a leader on this issue when he is not.”
Several of the world’s most promising vaccines are currently being developed by the US, and the White House, under its operation “Warp Speed”, currently aims to produce 300 million vaccine doses.
Under a plan that simultaneously scales up production capacity, the initiative aims to have the first batch available by January 2021.
However, Trump has been vocal about his desire for a vaccine to be distributed months before that.
In August, the president accused “deep state” actors “or whoever” at the federal agency charged with overseeing food and drug safety of trying to slow vaccine development until after the election.
In the past, Trump has used the term “deep state” to refer to long-serving government staff who, in the president’s eyes, are determined to undermine his agenda.
“Obviously, they are hoping to delay the answer until after November 3rd. Must focus on speed, and saving lives!” Trump wrote in an August 22 tweet that tagged Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Trump also contradicted his administration’s health officials in saying a vaccine could be available “before the end of the year and maybe even before November 1”.
“I think we can probably have it sometime in October,” he said.
The head of operation “Warp Speed”, Moncef Slaoui, told NPR on Thursday that there was a “very, very low chance” that a vaccine would be ready by the end of October.
In an interview with Science magazine published the same day, Slaoui also said he would quit his post if there was political interference in the safe rollout of a vaccine.
The director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, which oversees vaccines, had previously said he would resign if the agency rubber-stamped an unproven vaccine, Reuters news agency reported in August.