Trump: U.S. government working with other countries on vaccine

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Friday the U.S. government was working with other countries to develop a coronavirus vaccine at an accelerated pace while preparing to distribute a vaccine once one is ready.

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about administration efforts to develop a novel coronavirus vaccine as Dr. Debbie Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci listen during a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic response event in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, U.S., May 15, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

At an event in the White House Rose Garden, in which many administration officials wore masks but the president did not, Trump expressed his hope that a vaccine would be in place before the end of the year and said his administration would mobilize its forces to get a vaccine distributed once one was in place.

Trump said the government would invest in all the top coronavirus vaccine candidates and said a list had been narrowed to 14 promising possibilities with a plan to narrow further.

Former GlaxoSmithKline executive Moncef Slaoui, who Trump has tapped to help spearhead the vaccine effort, expressed optimism that progress would be made before the end of the year.

“I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine. These data made me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of a vaccine by the end of 2020,” he said.

Slaoui did not mention which vaccine, but one developed by Moderna Therapeutics with help from the National Institutes of Health recently won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to advance to the next phase of clinical trials.

Experts have warned that it would likely take 12-18 months or more to get a vaccine ready for the public, but the president has sought to speed up that time frame while also playing down the need for a vaccine as he encourages U.S. states to reopen their economies.

At his Rose Garden event the president made clear his view that the country could move on from the epidemic without one.

“Vaccine or no vaccine, we’re back,” Trump said.

The president, who took criticism for not coordinating with European countries over travel restrictions in the early stages of the pandemic, said the world was cooperating to develop a vaccine.

“We’ve got countries that are allies – we have some countries, frankly, that are not allies – where we’re working very closely together,” Trump said. “We have no ego. Whoever gets it, we think it’s great. We’re going to work with them. They’re going to work with us. Likewise, if we get it, we’re going to be working with them.”

Reporting by Steve Holland and Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Lisa Lambert, Timothy Ahmann and Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by David Gregorio

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