WASHINGTON/NEW YORK — In a Rose Garden address touting the success of COVID-19 vaccine trials Friday afternoon, President Donald Trump slammed Gov. Andrew Cuomo over a recent policy to essentially double-check federal authorization for a vaccine.
Trump said the vaccine would be available in the spring for essentially the entire country, except for New York.
"As soon as April, the vaccine will be available to the entire general population, with the exception of places like New York state where, for political reasons, the governor decided to say, 'I don't think it's good politically.' I think it's very bad from a health standpoint, he wants to take his time with the vaccine," Trump said.
In September, Cuomo announced a state task force to review every vaccine authorized by the federal government. He said it's because the Trump administration had politicized a vaccine and the federal government cannot be trusted to ensure a safe and trustworthy product.
"He doesn't trust where the vaccine's coming from," Trump said Friday. "These are coming from the greatest companies anywhere in the world, greatest labs in the world. He doesn't trust the fact that it's this White House, this administration. We won't be delivering it to New York until we have authorization to do so. That pains me to say that."
Trump seemingly threatened to withhold the vaccine from New York.
"Gov. Cuomo will have to let us know when he's ready for it, otherwise we can't be delivering it to a state that won't be giving it to its people immediately."
Earlier this fall, top U.S. health officials sought to assure a skeptical public they can trust any shots the government ultimately approves. Trump was pushing for fast approval, at the time during a tense election. The Food and Drug Administration's chief pledged to a Senate committee that the decision will be based on science, not politics.
In a release Friday, State Attorney General Letitia James said she'd sue if New York doesn't get vaccine doses.
“This is nothing more than vindictive behavior by a lame-duck president trying to extract vengeance on those who oppose his politics," she said. "Once there is a fully-developed COVID-19 vaccine, we are confident that a Biden-Harris Administration will provide New York with the proper number of doses so that our state’s residents can achieve immunity. If dissemination of the vaccine takes place in the twilight of a Trump Administration and the president wants to play games with people’s lives, we will sue and we will win.”
This week, Pfizer said its vaccine candidate is more than 90% effective based on Phase 3 trials. That announcement was a bright spot for Americans looking forward to an end to the pandemic, as cases rise around the nation in what may be a new wave.
Pfizer's vaccine candidate began Phase 3 testing in the summer and is among a handful of vaccine candidates that could be distributed in the coming months pending FDA approval.
The Associated Press said that while Pfizer's announcement means the company is on track to file an application for emergency use authorization later this month, it does not mean a vaccine is "imminent" and more studies are needed.
If a vaccine is on a timeline for April distribution to the general population as Trump described, president-elect Joe Biden will have been inaugurated, and the Biden administration would likely be overseeing a COVID-19 response. (The Associated Press has previously projected Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.)
"He's had some very bad editorials recently about [his vaccine statements] and what's happened with the nursing homes."
In a final dig, Trump brought up what's likely the most criticized piece of Cuomo's COVID-19 response.
"I hope he doesn't handle this as badly as he's handled the nursing homes."
It was Trump's first public appearance in days, speaking about Operation Warp Speed, a bright spot for a highly-criticized federal response to the pandemic.
He did not address his recent election loss to Joe Biden, nor did he concede.