Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday vowed to accelerate the administration of COVID-19 vaccines if he enters the White House next month.
Biden told a press conference in Delaware that the plan from President Donald Trump’s administration to distribute vaccines “is falling behind, far behind.”
“We’re grateful to the companies, the doctors, the scientists, the researchers, the clinical trial participants, and Operation Warp Speed for developing the vaccines quickly. But as I long feared and warned the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” Biden said.
“The pace of the vaccination program as moving now, if it continues to move as it is now, it’s going to take years, not months to vaccinate the American people,” Biden said.
Biden has declared victory in the presidential election and is preparing to take office in January 2021. Trump is challenging election results and is backing a plan to object to electoral votes during the upcoming joint session of Congress.
Biden said a Biden administration would “spare no effort to make sure people get vaccinated.”
One of his goals in the first 100 days of office would be making sure 100 million doses of the vaccine are administered, contingent upon funding from Congress.
“It would take ramping up five to six times the current pace to one million shots a day. But even with that improvement, even if we boost the speed of vaccinations to one million shots a day, it will still take months to have the majority of the United States population vaccinated,” said Biden, who also revealed plans to use the Defense Production Act to order private companies to speed up the production of vaccines.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for a response to Biden’s remarks. Operation Warp Speed, a Trump administration effort, backed vaccine makers and led to two vaccines being approved for emergency use this month, marking the fastest development for vaccines in history.
“President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed has developed safe and effective vaccines 5 times faster than any similar effort in history, and he has already made the vaccines free for all Americans,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement on Tuesday, noting that hundreds of millions of doses have been secured through agreements with Pfizer and other companies.
“While partisan critics offer nothing but empty rhetoric to frighten Americans for political ends, President Trump delivers results. Our country’s brightest days are ahead thanks to President Trump’s relentless pursuit of safety and prosperity for all,” she added.
Vice President Mike Pence added on Twitter that the operation is on track to distribute 20 million doses of the vaccine by next week.
“Millions of Americans have been vaccinated and we are working with States every day to vaccinate millions more. This is no time for playing politics!” he added.
Trump on Wednesday morning took aim at states.
“The Federal Government has distributed the vaccines to the states. Now it is up to the states to administer. Get moving!” he wrote on Twitter.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said during an appearance on CNN earlier Tuesday that “we certainly are not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December.”
“You heard talking about 40 million doses for 20 million people. I mean even if you undercount, 2 million is an undercount, how much undercount could it be? So, we are below where we want to be,” he added, before saying he believes the United States will distribute and administer the vaccines faster next month.
Adm. Brett Giroir, also a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said on MSNBC that the administration projects having 19.9 million doses distributed by Jan. 8. He also said he believes the 2.1 million figure is an undercount because of a three to seven-day delay in reporting.
“Remember last week with the holiday week, even in hospitals that’s slower than normal, and it’s only been 15 days since the first shot got in people’s arms,” Giroir said. “So we do expect that the state plans will ramp up over the next week or two. We expect that to accelerate.”