He alleged that the outgoing Trump administration's policy of holding back close to half the supply of the vaccines available did not make sense.
US President-elect Joe Biden has announced an ambitious goal of inoculating 100 million Americans with COVID-19 vaccines in the first 100 days of his administration, noting that the vaccine rollout in the country, the worst hit by the pandemic, has been a “dismal failure.”
Ahead of his inauguration on January 20, Biden on Friday held a briefing with his team on addressing the major health crisis that has engulfed the nation for nearly a year now.
The US is the worst-affected country in the world with more than 23,523,000 COVID-19 infections and 391,955 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus tracker.
During his election campaign, Biden, a Democrat, made tackling COVID-19 and the economic hardships it had put on Americans a core pitch to voters.
“The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure thus far and in today’s briefing we discussed five things, five things we will do in an attempt to turn things around, five things to turn frustration into motivation, five things to help us meet our goal of 100 million shots by the end of our first 100 days in office. Some wonder if we are reaching too far for that goal. Is it achievable? It’s a legitimate question to ask,” Biden told reporters in Wilmington, Delaware.
“Let me be clear; I am convinced we can get it done, and this is the time to set big goals to pursue them with courage and conviction because the health of the nation is literally at stake. First, we will immediately work with states to open up vaccinations to more priority groups,” he said.
Biden said that the process of establishing priority groups is driven by science, but the problem is the implementation has been too rigid and confusing.
“If you were to ask most people today, they couldn’t tell you who exactly is getting vaccinated. What they do know is there are tens of millions of doses of vaccine sitting unused in freezers around the country while people who want and need the vaccine can’t get it,” he said.
Exuding confidence, Biden said that his administration will fix the problem by encouraging states to allow more people to get vaccinated beyond healthcare workers and move through those groups as quickly as they think they can. That includes anyone 65 years or older, a population that has accounted for over 80 per cent of the deaths to date.
“We also have to continue vaccinating frontline essential workers like educators, first responders, grocery store workers, et cetera. It won’t mean that everyone in this group will get vaccinated immediately as the supply is not where it needs to be, but it will mean that vaccines become available–as they become available, it will reach more people who need them, will reach out and get the vaccine used,” he asserted.
Secondly, more vaccination sites would be added.
“That is where we are going to harness the full resources of the federal government to establish thousands of community vaccination centres. On my first day in office, I will instruct the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, to be again setting up the first of these centres. By the end of our first month in office we will have 100 federally supported centres across the nation that will ultimately vaccinate millions of people,” he said.
Within the first month, the administration is going to deploy mobile clinics moving from community to community that will partner with community health centres and local primary-care doctors to offer vaccines to hard-hit and hard-to-reach communities in cities, small towns and in rural communities. And to staff up these centres, the US will mobilise thousands of clinical and non-clinical professionals.
“The third change we are going to make is we are going to fully activate the pharmaceutic–the pharmacies across the country to get the vaccination to more arms as quickly as possible.
“Millions of Americans now turn to their local pharmacies every day for their medicines, flu shots, and much more. We are going to immediately start a new major effort working directly with both independent and chain pharmacies to get Americans vaccinated,” he said.
This programme will expand beyond access in neighbourhoods across the country so that people can make an appointment and get shot, conveniently show up at a particular time and get it done quickly, he said.
Biden said his administration is going to use the full strength of the federal government to ramp up supply of the vaccines.
Biden said he will use the Defense Production Act to work with private industry to accelerate the making of materials needed to supply and administer the vaccine from the tubes and syringe–and syringes to protective equipment.
He alleged that the outgoing Trump administration’s policy of holding back close to half the supply of the vaccines available did not make sense.
“Our administration will release the vast majority of the vaccines when they’re available so more people can get vaccinated weekly while still retaining a small reserve for any unseen shortage or delays,” he said.
He said his administration will always be “honest and transparent about where we stand, both the good news as well as the bad. We’re going to make sure state and local officials know how much supply they’ll be getting and when they can expect to get it so they can plan.”
“Right now, we’re hearing that they can’t plan because they don’t know how much supply of vaccines they can expect at what time frame. That stops when we’re in office,” Biden said.