The Trump administration aimed to vaccinate 20 million Americans by the end of December, but according to new figures released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to date only 10.6 million people have received at least one of the two shots needed.
Biden vowed that his incoming administration will spare “no effort to get Americans vaccinated.
“Our plan is as clear as it is bold,” Biden declared. “Get more people vaccinated for free. Create more places for them to get vaccinated. Mobilize more medical teams to get the shots in people’s arms. Increase supply and get it out the door as soon as possible.”
The president-elect’s speech – which he gave in his hometown of Wilmington, Del., came as new cases of the virus continue to surge across the country. Nearly 390,000 people in the U.S. have died of COVID since the pandemic swept the nation nearly a year ago. More than 23.4 million people in the U.S. have been infected with the virus since it first struck. And on Tuesday, more than 4,300 deaths nationally were linked to the virus, a new one-day high.
“We remain in a very dark winter,” Biden warned. “Infection rates are up 34%. More people are being hospitalized because of COVID than ever before. We’re up to between three and four thousand deaths per day, as we approach the grim milestone of 400,000 deaths in America. That’s staggering to state the obvious.”
Biden listed a handful of steps to reach his goal.
“We will immediately work with states to open up vaccinations to more priority groups,” Biden said.
And he argued that “the implementation has been too rigid and confusing.” He said: “If you were to ask most people today, they couldn’t tell you who exactly is getting vaccinated. What they do know is there’s tens of millions of doses vaccine sitting unused in freezers around the country, while people who want and need the vaccine can’t get it.”
He vowed to “fix the problem by encouraging states to allow more people to get vaccinated beyond health care workers and move through those groups as quickly as they think we can. That includes anyone 65 years or older, a population that has accounted for over 80% of the deaths to date.”
Biden also pledged to establish thousands of community vaccination centers. “On my first day in office I’ll instruct the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, to begin setting up the first of these centers,” he said. The president-elect said they would set up 100 vaccination centers across the nation by the end of his first month in office, with many of them in school gymnasiums, sports stadiums, and community centers.”
“We’re going to make sure there are vaccination centers in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, in Black and Latino communities and rural communities as well,” he said.
“We’ll provide resources to help states cover the costs of personnel … and protective equipment,” he said.
Biden said his COVID team would also “fully activate” pharmacies to provide vaccinations.
Biden said he’ll use “the Defense Production Act to work with private industry to accelerate the making of materials needed to supply and administer the vaccine.”
The president-elect pledged that his administration will “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.”
Pointing to the hesitancy of many in the Black, Latino, and Native American communities to trust the vaccine, Biden said his “administration will launch a massive public education campaign” to rebuild trust.
“Equity is central to our COVID response,” he said.
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