Donald Trump sets up clash with New York while pushing imminent vaccine availability

He promised vaccines would 'arrive within a few weeks' for use across the US but there are still hurdles to clear

epa08819156 US President Donald J. Trump delivers an update on Operation Warp Speed during a press conference on the South Lawn of the White House, Washington, DC, USA, 13 November 2020. Operation Warp Speed is a public/private partnership, initiated by the Trump administration, to facilitate and accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.  EPA/Chris Kleponis / POOL
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President Donald Trump on Friday offered a rosy update on the race for a coronavirus vaccine as he delivered his first public remarks since his defeat by President-elect Joe Biden.

Mr Trump spoke from the Rose Garden as the nation sets records for confirmed cases of Covid-19, hospitalisations reach near critical levels and fatalities climb to the highest levels since the spring.

With more than 100,000 new confirmed US cases reported daily for more than a week, Mr Trump was more focused on tracking the roll-out of a vaccine, which won’t be widely available for months.

He said a vaccine would ship in “a matter of weeks” to vulnerable populations, though the Food and Drug Administration has not yet been asked to grant the necessary emergency approvals.

Mr Trump also said he would not ship vaccines to hard-hit New York until Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo signs off, noting that the state has promised to do its own vaccine review to ensure their safety. “The governor will let us know when he’s ready,” the president said.

Public health experts worry that Mr Trump’s refusal to take aggressive action on the pandemic, and to not co-ordinate with the incoming Biden team will hinder the nation’s ability to swiftly distribute a vaccine next year.

As states impose new restrictions in the face of rising caseloads, Mr Trump asked all Americans to remain “vigilant”. But he ruled out imposing a nationwide “lockdown”.

“This administration will not be going to a lockdown,” he said. “Hopefully whatever happens in the future, who knows, which administration it will be I guess time will tell, but I can tell you this administration will not go to a lockdown.”

Mr Trump said vaccines would “arrive within a few weeks,” saying they were ready and merely awaiting approval – and would be given “to high-risk individuals right away”.

In fact, there’s no guarantee that Pfizer’s product, currently the front-runner in the race to developing a successful vaccine, will get rapid authorisation for emergency use.

Even if it does, there’s no information yet indicating if the vaccine works in older adults or just younger, healthier adults.

Mr Trump took no questions Friday from reporters. He hasn’t answered questions since before Election Day.