President Donald Trump said it's possible the U.S. could have a safe and effective vaccine for the coronavirus before the upcoming presidential election.
Trump, who is seeking reelection, was asked during an interview Thursday with conservative TV personality Geraldo Rivera whether a vaccine would be ready before Nov. 3, Election Day.
"Oh I think, I think in some cases, it's possible before," he said. "But right around that time. We have great companies, great, these are the greatest companies in the world."
The president's comments differ from his own public health officials, who have repeatedly said a vaccine could be ready at the end of the year or early 2021, though there is no guarantee. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading infectious disease expert, has said a vaccine likely won't be "widely available" to the American public until "several months" into 2021.
Trump lags in public opinion polls behind presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, who has been critical of the president's response to the pandemic.
The comment is likely to add to concerns from scientists that the White House is pressuring U.S. regulators to approve a vaccine before it's ready. Though, Fauci told Reuters that U.S. regulators overseeing the approval of potential coronavirus vaccines have promised scientists that politics won't play a role in their approval process.
Health officials say there is no returning to "normal" until there is a vaccine against the virus, which has infected more than 18 million people worldwide and killed at least 708,301 as of Thursday, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Though scientists expect to have an effective vaccine widely available next year, there is never a guarantee. While drugmakers are racing to make millions of doses of vaccines, there's a chance the vaccine will require two doses rather than one, potentially further limiting the number of people who can get vaccinated once it becomes available, experts say.
Officials also need to make sure states have the vials, needles and syringes used to administer the vaccine or risk shortages.
Additionally, scientists say that questions remain about how the human body responds once it's been infected with the virus. The answers, they say, may have important implications for vaccine development, including how quickly it can be deployed to the public.
— CNBC's Noah Higgins-Dunn contributed to this report.