The rate of new cases was ranked highest in the world last week, and Portugal’s health system is struggling to cope.
The United States will accelerate the delivery of COVID-19 vaccines across the country, President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday, as his administration plans to buy 200 million more doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines.
In remarks at the White House, Biden warned that even with more Americans set to be inoculated “sooner than previously anticipated” due to the additional doses, the pandemic will continue to worsen before it gets better.
“It is going to take months until we can get the majority of Americans vaccinated,” said Biden, who urged people to wear masks in the meantime to prevent the spread of the virus.
The US has recorded the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world at more than 25.4 million, according to Johns Hopkins University data. More than 424,000 coronavirus-related deaths have also been reported across the country.
Biden’s remarks come as his new administration works to get a handle on the scope and scale of the vaccination plan put in place by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
Biden on Tuesday gave the Trump administration credit for getting the vaccine programme “off the ground”, but he said “it’s no secret” that the programme was “in worse shape than we anticipated or expected”.
Biden officials have been unable to say how much vaccine the government has in its stockpile while uneven distribution has led to confusion and delays in some states. Biden has pledged to administer 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says on its website that more than 23.5 million doses have been administered as of Tuesday morning, out of a total of more than 44.3 million distributed doses.
An estimated one million Americans now are receiving the vaccine each day.
Republicans have chaffed at Biden’s criticism of the Trump team’s efforts. Representative Steve Scalise, a leading House Republican, tweeted last week that, “the United States was already on track for 100 million doses in 100 days”.
Don’t let the media and Democrat politicians spin this differently:
Biden’s Vaccine Plan is Trump’s Vaccine Plan.
The United States was already on track for 100 million doses in 100 days.
They’ll try to tell you this is a new plan. It’s not.
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) January 21, 2021
Meanwhile, the White House is expected to hold a briefing on Wednesday with public health experts to provide information on the vaccine situation and Biden’s efforts to address the pandemic.
A “fact sheet” distributed by the White House Communications Office with Biden’s remarks on Tuesday outlined three steps the Biden administration is taking to “boost vaccine supply and increase vaccine transparency”.
In addition to the purchase of 200 million more doses, the administration will increase the number of vaccine doses distributed to US states to 10 million a week, up from 8.6 million a week at the present rate.
The Department of Health and Human Services also will provide better forecasting information to state and local authorities about how many doses to expect three weeks in advance. That will help state and local leaders plan vaccination efforts more effectively, the White House said.
The purchase of additional doses would bring the total volume of vaccine acquired by the government to 600 million doses. Biden said the additional doses would be delivered by mid-September.
Meanwhile, Vice President Kamala Harris received her second dose of the vaccine on Tuesday. She had received her first dose on December 29.
“I urge everyone to take the vaccine when it is their turn,” Harris said after receiving the shot.
“It is relatively painless and it will save your life,” she said.
Biden has invoked the Defense Production Act, a 1950 wartime law, to direct production of syringes, needles, glass vials another supplies needed to distribute and administer the vaccine.
He said he has also ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to build and open federal vaccination centres and is sending vaccine doses to thousands eeof pharmacies nationwide for free distribution.
“This is a wartime undertaking. It’s not hyperbole. And as such, I directed the team to be ready to exercise all the authorities I have, under the Defense Production Act and expedite these vaccines,” Biden said.