The US does not have a plan to manufacture and distribute a coronavirus vaccine amid the world’s worst coronavirus outbreak, an ousted whistle-blower told lawmakers Thursday.
If every American does not have access to the vaccine when and if it is developed the situation would be “catastrophic,” Dr. Rick Bright, who was ousted from his senior role at the Department of Health and Human Services for raising the alarm over N95 protective mask shortages, told a House of Representatives subcommittee.
“The decisions have not been made yet: who to vaccinate first, how to identify those individuals and how to stretch those limited supplies appropriately,” he told the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Health subcommittee.
He questioned what he said is the Trump administration’s rosy timeline for the vaccine’s development.
“There is a lot of optimism. There is a lot of hope. But that does not make a vaccine. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Bright said, arguing it is “very unlikely” the US will be able to vaccinate in the next few months.
The dire warning comes as US President Donald Trump pushes states to reopen as rapidly as possible in the middle of the worst US economic downturn since the Great Depression that began in 1929.
The Labor Department said Thursday nearly 3 million more Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the coronavirus continues to hammer the economy, raising the number of jobless claims to 36.5 million in the past eight weeks.
Trump told the Fox Business television network he expects to have a vaccine available by the end of the year, and he continued to lay into Bright as he was testifying saying on Twitter the doctor is “a disgruntled employee.”
He further fumed that Bright “should no longer be working for our government!”
More than 85,000 people have died from the coronavirus in the US with an excess of 1.4 million infections, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
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