Biden says Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines falling ‘far behind’

Biden says Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines falling ‘far behind’

President-elect Joe Biden is warning that the Trump administration’s effort to vaccinate Americans against the coronavirus “is falling behind, far behind.”

Speaking in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday after meeting with advisers, Biden pledged “a more aggressive effort” to get the pace of vaccinations “back on track.”

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The president-elect also criticized the outgoing administration’s lack of COVID testing for Americans, calling it “a travesty.” 

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President-elect Joe Biden speaks at The Queen theater, Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Biden topped his speech by cautioning that “things are going to get worse before they get better….We need to be honest, the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, a very tough period for our nation. Maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic.”

Speaking on a day when the national coronavirus death toll since the pandemic swept the U.S. in February and March topped 335,000 people, Biden stressed, “we’re averaging daily death rates of nearly 2,200 people, which means we’ll lose tens of thousands of more lives in the months to come.”

The president-elect warned that “the Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind.”

“As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should. A few weeks ago the Trump administration suggested that 20 million Americans could be vaccinated by the end of December. With only a few days left in December, we’ve only vaccinated a few million so far.”

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Trump officials leading Operation Warp Speed last week acknowledged that the vaccine rollout was “unlikely” to meet its goal of 20 million vaccinations by the end of the month.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who heads the administration’s efforts to speed up vaccine production and distribution, told reporters that the process has been “slower than we thought it would be.”

Biden said he’s directed his team “to prepare a much more aggressive effort with more federal involvement and leadership to get things back on track. We’ll find ways to boost the pace of vaccinations.”

He reiterated his goal of “ensuring that 100 million shots have been administered by the end of the first 100 days.”

“If Congress provides the funding, we’d be able to meet this incredible goal. It would take ramping up five to six times the current pace to 1 million shots a day,” Biden said.

He also acknowledged that “this is going to be the greatest operational challenge ever faced as a nation, but we’re going to get it done.”

The president-elect also spelled out that he’s “going to use my power under the Defense Production Act when I’m sworn in to order private industry to accelerate making the materials needed for vaccines and well as protective gear.”

The Biden administration plans to set up vaccination sites, send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities, and encourage people in minority communities who might be more skeptical of the vaccines.

“We will launch a massive public education campaign to increase vaccine acceptance. We will do everything we can to show the vaccines are safe,” he said.

While the president has repeatedly praised COVID testing efforts under his administration, Biden painted a very different picture. “After 10 months of the pandemic, we still don’t have enough testing. It’s a travesty,” he charged vowing to scale up testing.

And he promised “more protective equipment for front line health workers who are still reusing masks and gowns.”

But the president-elect said all these efforts would require additional funding from Congress. He plans to propose a new COVID action package.

Biden also repeated his goal of asking Americans to wear a mask for the first 100 days of his administration to prevent the spread of the virus. He reiterated that he would mandate mask wearing among federal workers and in government buildings, as well as on planes, trains, and buses that travel between states. And he said he would work with the nation’s governors and mayors to implement mask mandates throughout much of the country.

But he also looked to Trump, who has just over three weeks left in the White House, to help out.

Biden said he hoped the president – who early in the pandemic refused to wear a mask in public – will “clearly and unambiguously promote mask wearing.”

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The president-elect praised former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Trump ally who was infected with COVID. Christie this month stars in a public service announcement calling on Americans to wear masks.

“I give former Gov. Chris Christie credit. He and I disagreed on a number of things but I’m thankful he’s now encouraging people to do the right thing and wear marks for themselves, their loved ones and their country,” Biden said. “I hope President Trump will listen to him. He can do it too. It would make a huge difference for President Trump to say wear masks.”

Fox News’ Allie Raffa contributed to this report

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