United States President Donald Trump on Wednesday rejected the scientific projections of his own government about the coronavirus, and said a vaccine could be available much sooner than predicted and would go “immediately” to the general public, Reuters reported.

His statement directly contradicted Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who told a US Senate committee that a vaccine would not be broadly available until mid to late 2021. “I think he made a mistake when he said that,” Trump told reporters. “I don’t think he means that. When he said it, I believe he was confused. It’s just incorrect information.”

Trump added that Redfield made a mistake when he told lawmakers that any vaccine available would be in very limited supply, and reserved for first responders and the people most vulnerable to Covid-19. The president claimed that a vaccine would go “to the general public immediately,” and “under no circumstance will it be as late as the doctor [Redfield] said,” according to The New York Times.

Trump has been pushing for a vaccine ahead of the November presidential elections. Several companies are in late-stage trials of a vaccine and have expressed optimism, but none of the vaccines will be available this year.

The president on Wednesday also diminished the effectiveness of masks in containing the spread of the coronavirus and criticised Redfield for saying wearing a mask can be just as effective as a vaccine. “Number one, it’s [a mask] not more effective than a vaccine and I called him about that,” Trump said.

Trump had for months refused to wear a mask in public, even as public health experts in his administration recommended wearing one would slow the spread of the infection. He also ridiculed those who wore a mask, like Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. He publicly wore a mask for the first time only on June 11.

On Tuesday, Trump had repeated his claims that the coronavirus could disappear over time as people develop a “herd mentality”. He was possibly referring to herd immunity, which occurs when enough people become immune to a disease to make its spread unlikely.

Globally, the coronavirus has infected more than 2.97 crore people and killed 9,39,175 people, according to the Johns Hopkins University. Of these, 66.30 lakh cases are from United States, making it the worst-affected country in the world. More than 1.96 lakh people have died so far.