President-elect Joe Biden on Friday laid out his detailed plan to ramp up the pace that Americans receive critical COVID-19 vaccinations, slamming the Trump administration's vaccine rollout plan as a "dismal failure."
Biden has long promised the ambitious goal of administering 100 million vaccine doses during his first 100 days in office, but until Friday had not specified what steps his incoming administration will take to do so. Biden on Thursday released plans for a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, legislation aimed at economic recovery and financial assistance for needy Americans.
But administering 100 million shots is only the beginning of his coronavirus vaccine plan, President-elect Joe Biden declared Friday. Lasting impact, he said, will come from uniting the nation in a new effort grounded in science and fueled by billions in federal money for vaccination, testing and outbreak sleuths.
"This is the time to set big goals because the health of the nation is literally at stake,” Biden said Friday from Wilmington, Delaware, saying his administration will “spare no effort” to vaccinate all Americans.
Details of the plan were released to the press in a fact-sheet ahead of Biden’s address. The president-elect’s plan includes ensuring minority communities have access to the vaccine, which Biden said will be facilitated through “partnerships with state, local and community-based organizations and trusted health care providers, like community health centers.”
The administration also plans to launch mobile vaccination clinics across the country, but will specifically focus on rural and hard-hit areas, with an additional focus on jump-starting the federal government’s partnership with both chain and independent pharmacies.
Biden also seconded the Trump’s administration’s call earlier this week for states to start vaccinating more seniors, reaching those 65 and older as well as younger people with certain health problems. Until now states have been focused on inoculating health care workers, and some are starting to vaccinate people 75 and older. Relatively few are providing shots to people between 65 and 75.
Biden also warned listeners, as he did on Thursday, that his plan comes with a hefty price tag, saying the country has a “moral obligation” to approve more deficit spending in order to “get us out of the deep hole we’re in”
Still, Biden acknowledged the months ahead will not be easy, warning of rising cases across the country. Over 390,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus, according to data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.
"The honest truth is this, things will get worse before they get better. I told you I'll always level with you,” Biden said Friday. “The policy changes that we're going to be making are going to take time to show up in the COVID statistics. They're not just statistics, it's people's lives."
Biden also slammed members of Congress who failed to wear their masks while sheltering in place during last week’s violent siege of Capitol Hill, saying their recklessness has led to at least four other lawmakers to contract the disease.
“Quite frankly, it was shocking to see members of Congress, while the Capitol was under siege by a deadly mob of thugs, refuse to wear a mask while they were in a secure location,” Biden said, adding: “For God’s sake, wear a mask for yourself, for your loved ones, for your country. These are life and death matters.”
As Biden spoke, some governors blasted the Trump administration for what at least one said was “deception” in suggesting earlier this week a reserve of vaccine doses was ready to ship, augmenting supplies. An administration official said states have still not ordered all of the doses allocated to them, and called it a problem with states’ expectations.
Biden committed to better communication with the states, to avoid surprises about how much vaccine they can expect. His plan calls for the federal government to fully reimburse states that mobilize their National Guard to help distribute vaccines.
According to CDC data, over 30 million coronavirus vaccine doses have been shipped out to states by the federal government. But as of Jan. 14, only slightly more than 11 million of those had been administered to Americans.
The political outlook for Biden’s rescue plan remains unclear, although a powerful business lobbying group welcomed its focus on controlling the pandemic.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.