US President-elect Joe Biden has criticised the Trump administration for its pace of distributing Covid-19 vaccines and predicted that “things will get worse before they get better” when it comes to the pandemic.
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“We need to be honest – the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, very tough for our nation. Maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic,” Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware.
His comments came as the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 336,000 Americans, with experts warning holiday travel and gatherings could precipitate yet another spike in cases, even as the virus has already been surging in states nationwide.
Biden went after the Trump administration over their vaccination efforts, warning that the project, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, was moving at a slower pace than needed.
“As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should,” he said.
Earlier this month, administration officials said they planned to have 20 million doses of the vaccine distributed by the end of the year.
But according to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control, just over 11.4 million doses have been distributed and only 2.1 million people have received their first dose and Biden said that at the current pace, it was going to take “years, not months”, to vaccinate the American people.
The president-elect, who takes office on 20 January, said he had directed his team to prepare a “much more aggressive effort, with more federal involvement and leadership, to get things back on track”.
Biden has set a goal of administering 100 million shots of the vaccine within his first 100 days in office, but admitted that in order to accomplish this, the pace of vaccinations would have to increase five to six times, to one million shots a day.
And even with that pace, Biden acknowledged it would still “take months” to have the majority of Americans vaccinated.
Still, he promised to “move Heaven and Earth to get us going in the right direction”.
Biden has made combating the coronavirus pandemic a central focus of his transition work.
He has pledged that one of his first acts as president will be to release a comprehensive coronavirus aid bill to Congress that will include funding for expanded vaccinations and testing, among other things.
He also has a Covid-19 task force working on ways to better streamline the government response to the pandemic and help turn the tide of infections.