President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he was confident that there will be a coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year, a timeline that's even speedier than the optimistic projections laid out by his administration's public health advisors.
"We are very confident that we are going to have a vaccine at the end of the year, by the end of the year," Trump said. "We think we are going to have a vaccine by the end of this year, and we are pushing very hard."
The comments came during a Fox News town hall at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. Public health officials have said a coronavirus vaccine could take a year to 18 months. Vaccines often take many years to develop and distribute.
"We are pushing supply lines. We don't even have the final vaccine," Trump said. He said "many companies are, I think, close," citing pharmaceutical maker Johnson & Johnson by name.
Johnson & Johnson, which has partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services to manufacture a vaccine, has said it is hoping to get approval for one in early 2021.
Researchers at Oxford University working on vaccine development have said that theirs, if it proves effective, could be widely distributed by September.
The World Health Organization has said there are currently dozens of coronavirus vaccines in development.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said a vaccine could take 18 months to develop, though he noted in a CBS News interview last month that it was possible "to shave a couple of months off that."
"But, you know, you don't want to over-promise. We'll just have to see how it goes," Fauci told CBS.
Trump has seen his path to reelection in November grow steeper as the economic toll from the spreading coronavirus continues to mount. U.S. job losses since the start of the coronavirus pandemic have already wiped out all of the gains made during the recovery from the 2008 financial crisis.
Economists have warned that business is unlikely to return until consumers are confident that they can safely return to their pre-Covid-19 routines, which would likely require a vaccine or effective treatment for the flu-like contagion to be widely available.
Trump, who in January said he had coronavirus "totally under control," has in recent weeks acknowledged the scope of the crisis. Bloomberg News reported last month that the administration's "Operation Warp Speed" is seeking to rapidly cut down the time it takes to develop a vaccine.
The project has a goal of having 300 million doses of a vaccine ready by January, in part by pooling private and government resources, including the military, the outlet reported. There is no precedent for such an effort.
Covid-19 has spread to more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. and killed more than 65,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. suffered its deadliest day since the outbreak began last week, according to WHO, with nearly 3,000 dead in 24 hours.
Trump said on Sunday that his forecast for the number of Americans who will die from the disease has increased.
"I used to say 65,000 and now I'm saying 80 or 90, and it goes up, it goes up rapidly," Trump said. He said that even at the upper end of his projections, millions of people will be saved by government measures, compared to the outcome that would have been had the public carried on like normal.