U.S. President Donald Trump late Friday hailed what he termed “a medical miracle” – the immediate but extremely limited availability of a coronavirus vaccine less than a year after the first cases of COVID-19 were reported in the United States.
In a video message posted on Twitter, Trump said the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for emergency use will be administered “within 24 hours” and will be “free [of charge] for all Americans.”
The president said the vaccine “will save millions of lives and soon end the pandemic once and for all.” The assertion contradicted health officials who note that it will be months before many Americans can be inoculated and that eradication of COVID-19 is far from assured.
There was no immediate reaction from President-elect Joe Biden, who earlier this week promised that 100 million vaccine doses would be administered in the first 100 days of his administration. Biden will be sworn in Jan. 20.
The top Democrat in Congress, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said “Americans should have full confidence in this vaccine knowing that it has been reviewed and recommended by the independent experts of the FDA’s advisory panel.”
In a statement, Pelosi urged federal action to accelerate vaccine manufacturing, adding, “We must ensure that the vaccine will be free and distributed in a fair and equitable manner to as many Americans as possible as soon as possible.”
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, meanwhile, said millions of vaccine doses are being shipped but that, despite the good news, Americans must “double down” on public health measures.
“As Americans get vaccinated, we need to continue taking steps like washing our hands, social distancing, and wearing face coverings to protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities,” Azar said in a statement.
The chairman of the Senate Health Committee, Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander, tweeted that the American public should be “grateful to the scientists in pharmaceutical companies and the federal government who produced this result, both the Trump Administration for leading it and Congress for funding it.”