WASHINGTON, DC - Two top U.S. health officials are expressing skepticism about Vladimir Putin's claim that Russian scientists have come up with the world's first safe and effective vaccine.
"I seriously doubt that they've done that," infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said. But he added that he hopes Moscow has indeed "actually definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective."
Fauci said a number of U.S. labs are working on a vaccine and could, if they wanted to, roll them out anytime.
"If we wanted to take the chance of hurting a lot of people or giving them something that doesn't work, we could start doing this, you know, next week if we wanted to. But that's not the way it works," Fauci said in remarks to be broadcast Thursday by National Geographic.
Fauci has said he hopes to have millions of doses of a COVID-19 vaccine ready in the U.S. by early 2021 but has warned there is no way to guarantee the long-term effectiveness of a vaccine.
Meantime, U.S. Health and Human Services chief Alex Azar said during a visit to Taiwan on Wednesday that developing a COVID-19 vaccine is "not a race to be first."
He said the Trump administration is working with the U.S. pharmaceutical industry to "deliver as quickly as we can for the benefit of the United States' citizens, but also for the people of the world, safe and effective vaccines."
The Food and Drug Administration must approve any vaccine of any kind before it is distributed to doctors and other health care professionals.
China on Wednesday called Azar's performance in handling COVID-19 in the U.S. "the worst in the world" and said his trip to Taiwan was a stunt.
"He ignored millions of Americans suffering from the virus and went to Taiwan to put on a political show," foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan said. "His behavior proves once again that in the eyes of U.S. politicians, American lives mean nothing when compared with their selfish political gains."
The Trump administration has accused China of trying to cover up the outbreak of COVID-19 when it began in Wuhan in December and failing to contain the disease - allegations China denies.
Azar said if the coronavirus outbreak started in Taiwan or the U.S., it could have been "snuffed out easily."
Spain's Galicia region has banned cigarette smoking in the streets, in outdoor restaurants, and anywhere social distancing is impractical.
Although it's unclear if cigarette smokers are more susceptible to COVID-19, smoking contributes to the underlying health problems that make recovery from the disease much more difficult. Second-hand cigarette smoke is also a health hazard.
Officials in Spain's Aragon region have ordered a military field hospital, and testing in Catalonia, including its capital Barcelona, is being expanded after Spain reported 1,700 hundred new COVID cases in just 24 hours Wednesday.
Greece reported 262 new cases Wednesday - its highest one-day total since the outbreak began - and Italy is ordering visitors from Greece, Spain, Croatia and Malta to be tested for COVID-19 when they cross the border. Italy is a popular vacation spot for tourists from those four nations.
The pandemic continues to have an effect on the sporting world. Two major U.S. college athletic conferences - the Big Ten and the Pac-12 - announced Tuesday they are postponing their upcoming fall football seasons.
Now, one of the world's top golf tournaments - The Masters - will be played this year with no spectators.
It's the third major U.S. golf match to be fan-free this year. The PGA Championship was played last week with no one watching from the sidelines. The U.S. Open, which was moved from June to September, will also have no spectators.
The Masters is usually held every April at Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia. The club has been closed because of the coronavirus, and this year's tournament has been postponed until November.
Pop singer and guitarist Trini Lopez, best known for his smash recordings of "If I Had a Hammer" and "Lemon Tree" in the 1960s, has died from COVID-19. He was 83 years old.
Along with his hit records, Lopez was also an actor, appearing on television and co-starring in the 1967 World War II film "The Dirty Dozen."