To successfully roll out the most complex and logistically challenging vaccine campaign in the nation’s history, Biden’s administration seeks to confront vaccine hesitancy, a burned-out workforce, a lack of clear information on vaccine distribution and vaccine demand that far outstrips supply.
“Get more people vaccinated for free,” said Biden, listing his goals. “Create more places for them to get vaccinated. Mobilize more medical teams to get shots in people’s arms. Increase supply and get it out the door as soon as possible.
“This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country – but you have my word, we will manage the hell out of this operation.”
Trump will leave the Biden administration with a complex, multi-layered crisis caused by the coronavirus and worsened by the Trump administration’s mishandling of it. In nearly every instance, the Trump administration sought to leave Covid-19 response to the states, distancing itself over fights for protective gear, supplies, tests and now confusion over vaccine supplies. Biden called the effort so far a “dismal failure”.
Biden’s goal to vaccinate 100 million people in his first 100 days would double the pace currently set by the Trump administration, which pledged to get 20 million people vaccinated by the end of last year. So far, only 12 million people have received shots.
However, even as vaccines are rolled out, many more Americans are expected to succumb to the disease, in part because a new, more transmissible variant called B117 is expected to overtake dominant strains in the US in roughly eight weeks, and further fray health resources.
“Things will get worse before they get better,” said Biden, later adding: “The policy changes we’re making will take time to show up in the Covid statistics.” It often takes weeks for infected individuals to be diagnosed, hospitalized or die from Covid-19.
Biden’s incoming chief of staff, Ron Klain, said he expects Covid to claim 500,000 American lives by February, because “we haven’t fully funded the Covid response”. Already, the virus has killed more than 390,000 Americans, and left 25.7 million Americans unemployed as the economy backslides amid rising cases.
Biden laid out a more ambitious, and expensive, plan to take control of the coronavirus than any undertaken by the Trump administration. One analyst at the left-leaning Center for American Progress called it “a sharp departure from the Trump administration’s fend-for-yourself approach”.
Biden pledged to set up 100 federally funded vaccination sites at places like school gymnasiums and sports stadiums; to “staff up” the centers with “thousands” of workers; and to establish community vaccination centers in hard-to-reach and hard-hit places.
“We commit to making sure communities of color, rural neighborhoods, and those living with disabilities and seniors are not left behind in our vaccination plans,” said Biden. He also called the disproportionate impacts of Covid-19 on minorities and marginalized Americans, “unacceptable, unconscionable”.