Trump official refuses to say a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable to all

Alex Azar also appears to contradict president's contention that deadly virus will disappear once it gets warmer

Phil Thomas
New York
Wednesday 26 February 2020 23:23 GMT
Trump official refuses to say a coronavirus vaccine would be affordable to all

Alex Azar, Donald Trump's health secretary, has told politicians he cannot guarantee that a coronavirus vaccine will be affordable to everyone once it has been developed.

Giving evidence to Congress on the administration's efforts to contain the deadly virus, Mr Azar said: "We would want to ensure that we work to make it affordable, but we can't control that price, because we need the private sector to invest. Price controls won't get us there."

He also appeared to contradict the president by saying he did not believe the virus would simply die out when the weather gets warmer, a contention Mr Trump made last week.

He was speaking shortly before the president was due to hold a news conference on how he is planning to protect Americans from the deadly virus.

Mr Trump has been criticised by both Democrats and Republicans for not doing enough to combat the threat of the coronavirus.

He has requested $2.5bn, which would go towards developing a vaccine and stockpiling protective gear like face masks. However, the Democrats say it will cost at least $8.5bn to make sure the virus does not spread.

The president has also faced criticism for proposing to take $535m out of a budget to fight ebola.

Earlier, the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: "This is shameful. He puts forth a proposal now that is meagre, anaemic in terms of addressing this. Ebola, we did $5bn. And now they're trying to take the ebola money and spend it here.

"What he's doing is late, too late, anaemic. Hopefully we came make up for the loss of time but we have to have professionals in place, resources that are adequate and not use scare tactics about people coming back to our country."

It is thought Mr Trump may be planning to appoint a coronavirus czar to coordinate his government's response, as Barack Obama did with the ebola crisis in 2014.

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