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Trump says military will help distribute coronavirus vaccine when it’s ready

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks at Naval Air Station Norfolk Pier 8, Saturday, March 28, 2020, prior to the departure of the USNS Comfort, a U.S. Navy hospital ship stationed in Norfolk, Virginia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
May 14, 2020

President Donald Trump has said the U.S. military will play a key role in distributing the coronavirus vaccine around the country and that the military and other U.S. resources are already being prepared to distribute the potential vaccine.

During a Thursday interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo, Trump signaled optimism that a coronavirus vaccine will be widely available by the end of the year, but that distributing it will be of key importance.

“I will tell you something, I just literally left the meeting, we’re mobilizing our military, and other forces, but we’re mobilizing our military on the basis that we do have a vaccine,” Trump said. “You know, it’s a massive job to give this vaccine. Our military is now being mobilized so at the end of the year we’re going to be able to give it to a lot of people very, very rapidly.”

Trump added, “We will have a tremendous force because assuming we get it, then you have to distribute it and unless you’re mobilized and ready you’re not going to be able to do it for a long time. So we’re starting now.”

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Trump said he wants the vaccine to be available for most of the U.S. population, but said he wants the initial focus of distribution to go to sick and elderly individuals at the highest risk from the coronavirus.

“We’re going to focus on nursing homes and you know senior citizen centers,” he said, “because if you look at it, that is a very vulnerable group. It’s a terrible thing. So we’re going to be focused on that.”

The anticipation to have a vaccine and have the distribution network in place to rapidly deploy it comes as the Trump administration recently announced a plan to accelerate the vaccine development process, dubbed “Operation Warp Speed.” Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, initially said normal vaccine development could take 12 to 18 months, but in announcing the accelerated effort Trump set a goal of having 100 million vaccine doses ready by the end of the year.

U.S. News and World Report reported Fauci still believes having mass availability of a vaccine before schools and universities resume is still “a bridge too far.”

As the interview continued Bartiromo asked if Trump would act now to advise at-risk populations to stay home while allowing lower-risk populations could return to work.

“Well we’re doing that,” Trump said. “I’m actually saying like with the schools, open the schools, but if a teacher is 65 or older, especially if they have diabetes, if they have a bad heart, if they have a problem, we say relax for a longer period of time.”