President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday warned the US will likely see a surge in deaths from COVID-19 over the coming months as he laid out how his administration will respond to the crisis and criticized President Donald Trump’s vaccine roll-out.
“The Trump administration’s plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind, far behind,” Biden said.
“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.”
“If it continues to move as it is now, it’s going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people,” he said in the speech from his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware.
Arguing that the next few weeks and months following the holiday season will be some of the worst that the country has seen, Biden appealed for people to follow the recommendations to slow the spread of the virus.
Biden pledged said his administration will speed up the vaccination process and will ensure that 100 million shots are administered during the first 100 days of the new administration. Still, he warned that these efforts are contingent on receiving funding from Congress.
He also announced that his administration will use the Defense Production Act to order private industries to accelerate the production of materials needed for the vaccine against Covid-19, in addition to personal protective gear.
“Vice President [elect Kamala] Harris and I have been speaking with county officials, mayors, and governors of both parties to speed up the distribution of the vaccines across the nation,” Biden said.
“We’re going to work to set up vaccination sites and send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities.”
Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff on Tuesday received their first dose of the vaccine against Covid-19.
“I want to encourage everyone to get the vaccine,” Harris, 56, said after receiving her injection. “Literally, this is about saving lives. I trust the science, and it is the scientists who created and approved this vaccine.”
The vaccine, created by the company Moderna, was administered at the United Medical Center in Washington. It requires two doses to be maximally effective.
Other top public officials, including Biden and current Vice President Mike Pence, previously received doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the first to be rolled out in the US.
Biden and Harris take their oaths of office on January 20 after defeating President Donald Trump in the November 3 election, denying him a second term in the White House.
Trump, who was diagnosed with Covid-19 in October, has yet to be administered a coronavirus vaccine.
There are currently 19,448,626 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the US, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The number of cases in the US exceeds that of any other country, and the number is expected to climb following the holiday season. At least 336,947 people have died in the US from COVID-19.
The governor of the Western state of Colorado on Tuesday announced that officials there detected the first case of the Covid-19 variant B.1.1.7, a new and more highly infectious variant of the disease that was previously discovered in the UK.
The person infected is a male in his 20s with no history of travel, the governor revealed in a statement.
It is the first case of the new variant detected in the United States.