President-elect Joe Biden criticised the Trump administration’s roll-out of the coronavirus vaccine Tuesday, saying that its “plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind”.
“The effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” Biden said during a speech in Wilmington, Delaware.
The Centers for Disease Control reports that just more than 2.1 million vaccine doses have been given to date, far from the 20 million health officials promised would be given by the end of the year.
“The pace of the vaccination programme is 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 continued.
Biden promised that his administration “will spare no effort” to get 100 million shots administered by the end of his first 100 days as president, or by the end of April.
He pledged to ramp up the current speed of vaccinations to one million shots a day, or five to six times the current pace, and acknowledged it “will still take months to have the majority of Americans vaccinated”.
Biden said he has directed his team to prepare a “much more aggressive effort to get things back on track”.
“I’m going to move heaven and earth to get us going in the right direction,” Biden, who takes office on January 20, said.
In the meantime, US assistant health secretary Admiral Brett Giroir said he expects it will take another 10 days to get to the promised 20 million mark.
“By the end of next week, we’ll be at about 19.9 million distributed,” Giroir told MSNBC Tuesday, explaining that the pace will “ramp up” soon. “It’s only been 15 days since the first shot in people’s arms,” Giroir said.
Earlier in the day, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris received a COVID-19 vaccination live on television in a bid to boost confidence in the inoculation even while warning it will be months before it is available to all.
Biden has said he will make the fight against the coronavirus, which has infected more than 19 million Americans and killed more than 334,000, his top priority. He received his first injected dose of the vaccine live on television last week. Two doses are required for full protection.
Trump, who had COVID-19 in October, frequently has played down the severity of the pandemic and overseen a response many health experts say was disorganised, cavalier and sometimes ignored the science behind disease transmission.
Biden will inherit the logistical challenges of distributing the vaccine to hundreds of millions of Americans, as well as the task of persuading people who worry its development was rushed to take it.
Biden and his team have warned the vaccine will take time to roll out to the general population and urged people to listen to the advice of medical experts to avoid infection by the coronavirus.
Dr Vivek Murthy, Biden’s pick for surgeon general, told NBC News last week that while it was possible that people in lower-risk categories would get the vaccine early in the new year, it was more realistic to expect it would be mid to late 2021 before it reached the general population.
The United States has so far authorised two COVID-19 vaccines: one developed by Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE and the other by Moderna. Others are being evaluated.
Separately on Tuesday, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put off a vote on Trump’s call to boost COVID-19 relief checks for Americans to $2,000, in a rare challenge to his fellow Republican. Biden has said he favours the increase from an already approved $600.