Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday praised the news that a potential coronavirus vaccine reached a major milestone this week, and urged politicians to stop politicizing the issue.
Mr. McConnell, Kentucky Republican, praised the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed for funneling resources to vaccine research, but warned that distribution will still be a hurdle and the country still needed to be cautious.
“The American people should rest assured there are appropriate and necessary measures to assure the safety and efficacy of any vaccine before it is rolled out,” he said on the Senate floor. “It is urgent that all Americans continue the smart steps that have gotten us this far, wearing masks, social distancing, adapting our plans and our routines.”
“This virus is not going to magically leave us alone if we decide we’re fed up with taking precautions,” he added.
On Monday, Pfizer, working alongside BioTech of Mainz, Germany, announced that its vaccine proved more than 90% effective in its phase three trial, though the Food and Drug Administration still needs more data.
Coronavirus cases are surging in the United States, reaching an all-time high of nearly 143,000 on Wednesday. The seven-day rolling average of cases stands at 128,000 per day — far worse than the 50,000 daily cases recorded in mid-October.
As of Thursday morning, there have been 10,421,678 cases recorded in the United States and 241,949 deaths, according to data from John Hopkins University.
Mr. McConnell also took aim at Democrats, particularly New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who have expressed reservations about a vaccine and the Trump administration’s ability to implement a distribution plan.
“The whole country understands that our Democratic friends are not charter members of the Donald Trump fan club,” Mr. McConnell said. “If a vaccine has been found and distribution can begin soon, that’s good news. Not bad news.”
“It would save thousands and thousands of American lives. And public confidence will be essential. Leaders on all sides have a duty to act accordingly,” he added.
— Tom Howell Jr contributed to this report