Officials contradict Trump claims about military, vaccine distribution

Trump insists a process has "been fully set up" in which military officials will help distribute an eventual vaccine. No one knows what he's talking about.
Image: FILE PHOTO: Employee Philipp Hoffmann, of German biopharmaceutical company CureVac, demonstrates research workflow on a vaccine for the coronavirus (COVID-19) disease at a laboratory in Tuebingen
An employee of German biopharmaceutical company CureVac demonstrates research on a vaccine for the coronavirus disease at a laboratory in Tuebingen, Germany, on March 12, 2020.Andreas Gebert / Reuters file
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By Steve Benen

By all accounts, it'll be a while before a COVID-19 vaccine is ready for the public. But once it's been tested and deemed safe, a new challenge will emerge: how will it be distributed across a large country like the United States?

Unprompted, Donald Trump brought this up during a press briefing yesterday, insisting that a vaccine could be ready "very, very soon" -- wishful thinking, to be sure -- at which point the president expects to ramp up production to 500 million fairly quickly. As for distribution, the Republican added, "[L]ogistically, we’re using our military, our great military -- a group of people, their whole life is based around logistics and bringing things to and from locations -- and they’ll be able to take care of this locationally and bringing it where it has to go very, very quickly. They’re all mobilized. It’s been fully set up."

At face value, this sounded quite encouraging. There are, however, a couple of problems with this, starting with the apparent fact that no one in the Trump administration knows what the president's talking about. McClatchy News reported overnight:

It is unlikely the military will be involved, either in the distribution of a vaccine or in deciding who gets those precious initial deliveries, officials from both the White House and Defense Department said. Two defense officials told McClatchy on the condition they not be identified that the military commands most likely to have a stake in establishing a delivery strategy -- including U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for homeland defense, or the U.S. National Guard -- had not been asked to plan or prepare for distribution.

The same article added that White House officials said the Pentagon stands “ready and able to assist,” but could not point to a specific plan for eventual military distribution. The Department of Health and Human Services further suggested that the military may not be involved at all.

Naturally, this raises some awkward questions, starting with the fact that Trump appeared in the White House press briefing room, and assured reporters and the public that military officials are "all mobilized," and the process has "been fully set up."

Does Trump actually believe that? If so, why? Is this another one of those instances in which the president wants something to be true, so he simply asserted that it is true?