Vaccinating 100 million Americans in their first 100 days in office is only the beginning of their plan to combat the coronavirus, President-elect Joe Biden said Friday. The lasting impact, he said, will come from uniting the nation in a new science-based effort supported by federal resources for inoculations, testing and outbreak detection.
“You have my word: We will handle this operation well,” Biden said. But he also stressed the need for Congress to approve more resources and for people to maintain basic precautions, such as wearing masks, avoiding gatherings and washing their hands frequently.
“This is not a political issue,” Biden said. “This is about saving lives. I know it’s become a partisan issue, but it’s stupid for it to happen.”
Biden made his announcement a day after he presented a $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” to address the virus and provide temporary support to a struggling economy. Some $400 billion of the plan focuses on measures to control the virus. These range from setting up mass vaccination centers to conducting more advanced scientific analysis of new strains and health worker teams that track contacts of infected people.
On Friday, Biden pledged to maximize the available supply of vaccines and materials needed to deliver them, leveraging the Defense Production Act to control private manufacturing.
Biden also supported the call by President Donald Trump’s administration this week for states to begin vaccinating more older adults, 65 and older, as well as younger people with certain health problems. To date, states have focused on inoculating health care workers and some are beginning to vaccinate people 75 and older. Relatively few are vaccinating people between the ages of 65 and 75.
Dr. Leana Wen, a public health and emergency medicine expert, said Biden should set higher goals.
“Right now, mass vaccination is our last and best chance to restore normalcy,” she said. “There should be no expense spared for vaccination. One hundred million vaccines in 100 days should be seen as just a start.
For their part, some governors lashed out at the Trump government because of what at least one said was a “hoax” for implying this week that a stockpile of vaccine doses was ready for shipment. One official said states have not yet ordered all the doses they were assigned, describing it as a problem stemming from state expectations.
Biden pledged to improve communication with states to avoid surprises about how many vaccines they can expect. His plan calls for the federal government to fully reimburse states that mobilize their National Guard to help distribute vaccines.
The plan was released at a time when a divided nation is in the midst of the most dangerous wave of the pandemic yet. To date, more than 389,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States.