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Pelosi: Public 'confidence' key to successful vaccine

Pelosi: Public 'confidence' key to successful vaccine
© Bonnie Cash

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOn The Money: Trump says stimulus deal will happen after election | Holiday spending estimates lowest in four years | Domestic workers saw jobs, hours plummet due to COVID Hoyer lays out ambitious Democratic agenda for 2021, with health care at top CNN won't run pro-Trump ad warning Biden will raise taxes on middle class MORE (D-Calif.) warned Friday that a coronavirus vaccine will be only as successful as efforts to get the public at large to accept it.

"Unless there is confidence that the vaccine has gone through the clinical trials, and then is approved by the independent scientific advisory committee, as established to do just this, there will be doubts that people will have," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol.

The race for a much-sought COVID-19 vaccine — by public and private scientists alike — has been on for months, but the issue has been muddled by clashing messages coming out of the administration.

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Just this week, Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told a Senate panel that a vaccine would not be broadly available until the middle of 2021. Hours later, President TrumpDonald John TrumpGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska NYT: Trump had 7 million in debt mostly tied to Chicago project forgiven MORE rejected that timeline out of hand, saying Redfield had "made a mistake" and that a vaccine breakthrough was imminent, "within weeks."

After it emerges, he added, it will be dispersed "immediately."

"It's just incorrect information," Trump said of Redfield's testimony.

Some GOP leaders were quick to support the president's forecast over that of his top health officials. Pelosi, however, has made it clear that she's backing the scientists over Trump, stressing the importance of establishing both the safety and effectiveness of any vaccine before it's made publicly available.

"Those are the tests, safety and efficacy. And we want it to be available in a widespread, ethical way," she said. "And the best — it's not even an argument — but the best case for the vaccine is to have it as closely identified with the scientists who will be putting it forth."

Amid the debate, the Speaker has gained powerful allies in the pharmaceutical industry, as several of the nation's top drugmakers have vowed not to promote any coronavirus treatments that haven't been vetted for both of Pelosi's stated standards.

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"That's very important," she said.

Issues surrounding the efficacy — and potential dangers — of vaccines has been a touchy one even before the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. But the mixed messages coming from the White House seem to have added to the public wariness.

More than half of Americans polled recently said they would not take a vaccine before the Nov. 3 elections, wary of unproven treatments being rushed to the market for political reasons.

Joe BidenJoe BidenGiuliani goes off on Fox Business host after she compares him to Christopher Steele Trump looks to shore up support in Nebraska Jeff Daniels narrates new Biden campaign ad for Michigan MORE, the Democrats' presidential nominee, weighed in on the issue this week, urging voters to listen to the scientists over the president.

"I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump," he said Wednesday during a speech from Delaware.

The debate is churning just weeks before the elections, as the number of U.S. coronavirus deaths is poised to hit 200,000 and the number of cases soon to reach 7 million — far and away the highest numbers of any country in the world.

Adding to the urgency, the CDC announced Friday that the agency is $6 billion short in the funding needed to distribute a vaccine uniformly around the country.

Pelosi on Friday bashed the Republicans for what she characterized as their "contempt for science," both in their approach to the vaccine and their push for another round of coronavirus stimulus, which has hit a brick wall as the sides grapple over the size of the next emergency aid package.

Pelosi has offered $2.2 trillion, down from $3.4 trillion in the HEROES Act, which passed through the House in May. But Republicans have rejected numbers so high, pushing several "skinny" proposals that have topped out at $1.1 trillion.

Pressed by a reporter about her adherence to the $2.2 trillion figure, Pelosi noted that Democrats have already dropped more than a trillion from their initial proposal, wondering when Republicans were going to up their offer, as even Trump suggested this week.

"It's not perfect. Perfect is 3.4 trillion. Remember, we've come down 1 trillion, and we said we'd meet them in the middle," Pelosi said. "So this is not about perfect being the enemy of the good."