WASHINGTON (AP) — The prospect of a vaccine to shield Americans from coronavirus infection emerged Monday as a point of contention in the White House race as President Donald Trump accused Democrats of “disparaging” for political gain a vaccine he repeatedly has said could be available before the election.
“It’s so dangerous for our country, what they say, but the vaccine will be very safe and very effective,” the president pledged at a White House news conference.
Trump leveled the accusation a day after Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democrats’ vice presidential candidate, said she “would not trust his word” on getting the vaccine. “I would trust the word of public health experts and scientists, but not Donald Trump,” Harris said.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden amplified Harris’ comments Monday after he was asked if he would get a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Biden said he’d take a vaccine “tomorrow”want to see what the scientists have to say, too.
Biden said Trump has said “so many things that aren’t true, I’m worried if we do have a really good vaccine, people are going to be reluctant to take it. So he’s undermining public confidence.”
Still, the former vice president said, “If I could get a vaccine tomorrow I’d do it, if it would cost me the election I’d do it. We need a vaccine and we need it now.”
The back-and-forth over a coronavirus vaccine played out as three of the candidates fanned out across the country on Labor Day, the traditional start of the two-month sprint to the election. Harris and Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in Wisconsin and Biden went to Pennsylvania. Trump added the news conference to a schedule that originally was blank.
Harris, a California Democrat, said in a CNN interview broadcast Sunday that she would not trust a coronavirus vaccine if one were ready at the end of the year because “there’s very little that we can trust that … comes out of Donald Trump’s mouth.” She argued that scientists would be “muzzled” because Trump is focused on getting reelected.
Trump dismissed her comments as “reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric” designed to detract from the effort to quickly ready a vaccine for a disease that has killed nearly 190,000 Americans and infected more than 6 million others, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University.
“She’s talking about disparaging a vaccine