A mask might provide better protection against COVID-19 than an approved vaccine, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said during a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing Wednesday.
While that statement caught a lot of attention, Redfield also talked about a wide range of issues, including contact tracing, data reporting and the development of a vaccine.
The director of the CDC was also forced to defend his agency, saying the CDC will follow the science and will not be persuaded by politics.
Sen. Patty Murray of Washington: “Dr. Redfield, did anyone at the CDC advise President (Donald) Trump to downplay this crisis?"
Murray: “Did you agree with the president’s decision to downplay it?”
Redfield: "I’m not going to comment on that.”
Murray questioned Redfield about the agency’s response to the coronavirus, and Redfield testified that the CDC’s “scientific integrity ... has not been compromised and it will not be compromised under my watch.”
When asked about a vaccine for COVID-19, Redfield said he thinks it will be late second quarter to third quarter of 2021 before a vaccine is generally available to the public, however, those on the front lines of the pandemic could be prioritized as the first to get a vaccine, possibly this year.
″I think the vaccination will begin in November, December and then will pick up and will be in a prioritized way — the first responders and those at greatest risk at death," Redfield said. “And then eventually that will expand."
On COVID-19 contact tracing, the CDC director said the U.S. needs a public health workforce of 30,000 to 100,000 people — something that’s being worked on. The government is also working quickly on rapid testing, which could soon be the norm by the end of the year.
“We want a test that millions of people can take, maybe, dozens of times and get the information at the time they take the test. It sounds like to me that we’re finally getting to where that’s a realistic likelihood," said Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri.
Redfield said it’s important hospitals and health care facilities begin thinking about how they will administer a vaccine. Senators also had questions about how the U.S. will handle the next pandemic if another yet another virus threatens American lives.
“We do need to make investments over the long term. We do need to look at this problem as a national security problem, as it is a public health problem," said Department of Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dr. Robert Kadlec.
As part of a plan to make vaccines for COVID-19 available to all Americans, the vaccine itself will be free of charge. And for most vaccines, people will need two doses, 21 to 28 days apart. Double-dose vaccines will have to come from the same drugmaker. There could be several vaccines from different manufacturers approved and available.
In an Associated Press poll, one in five Americans said they would not get a coronavirus vaccine, and 31% said they were unsure.