(CN) — President-elect Joe Biden hit the Trump administration again Tuesday, saying its plan to distribute coronavirus vaccines to the American people is insufficient as the pandemic continues to spread out of control in all corners of the nation.
“The Trump administration plan to distribute vaccines is falling behind — far behind,” Biden said from his transition team headquarters at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Delaware.
“We are grateful to the companies, doctors, scientists, researchers, and clinical trial participants, and Operation Warp Speed for developing the vaccines quickly,” Biden continued. “But as I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should.”
Biden recommitted to provide 100 million shots to Americans during his first 100 days of office, pledging to use the Defense Production Act to marshal the power of the private sector to ramp up the vaccination effort.
Biden said the effort should focus on developing a federal plan to get the shots in people’s arms, and he criticized the current approach of distributing the shots to the states but not following through on how they are dispersed and ultimately delivered to the people.
The latest numbers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows there have been approximately 11.4 million vaccinations distributed throughout the United States to date, but only 2 million of those — about 17% — have been administered.
“If vaccinations continue at this pace, it will take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people,” Biden said, though he acknowledged the logistics of the vaccination as “the greatest operational challenge we have ever faced as a nation.”
Trump, who is in Florida for the winter holiday season, is laser focused on his intraparty flap with Senate Republicans, insisting they pass $2,000 stimulus checks rather than the $600 Congress approved the week before Christmas.
In the meantime, the coronavirus has reached or is close to some of the grimmest benchmarks since it first emerged approximately one year ago.
The number of cases in the United States is approaching 20 million and about 336,000 Americans have perished from the disease thus far. Biden said Tuesday that cases and deaths are likely to rise in the weeks ahead.
“Things will get worse before they get better,” Biden said.
He recalled predicting a death toll of 400,000 by the time he assumed the presidency and being labeled an alarmist.
“The reality is, it looks like we’ll hit that grim milestone,” Biden said.
A record number of patients are hospitalized with the virus that causes Covid-19, according to the CDC.
Public health officials fret that family get-togethers over the holidays will make the spread worse, meaning January could become the deadliest month of the pandemic in the United States — breaking records set this December.
“We’re averaging a daily death rate of nearly 2,200 people — which means we will lose tens of thousands of more lives in the months to come,” Biden said.
Biden said his administration will use the entirety of government to make sure Americans get vaccinations over the winter into the spring.
“We will work to set up vaccination sites and send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities,” the president-elect said.
He also talked about scaling up testing and encouraging mask wearing in the short term to make up for the lack of vaccinations. Meanwhile, the federal government must fund the comprehensive effort to quell the pandemic.
“That is why I will propose a Covid action package early next year and challenge Congress to act on it quickly,” he said. “My ability to change the direction of the pandemic starts in three weeks.”
Biden also announced the addition of three senior officials to his Covid response team, including Kaiser Permanente executive Bechara Choucair as the nation’s Covid-19 vaccine coordinator. Choucair will serve as the point person for the administration’s effort to accelerate the pace of vaccination.
Regarding testing, Biden announced the appointment of Carole Johnson, currently the commissioner of New Jersey’s human services department and a former senior health adviser in Barack Obama’s White House. Johnson worked on efforts to curtail the spread of the Ebola and Zika viruses during her time on the White House Domestic Policy Council and will focus on ramping up testing efforts at hospitals and schools and in high-risk communities where the coronavirus has exacted a particularly steep toll.
Biden also tapped Tim Manning, who served as deputy administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency throughout Obama’s tenure, to address supply issues related to the pandemic. Manning currently advises the Pacific Disaster Center and serves as faculty at Georgetown University.
Biden has consistently railed against the Trump administration’s lackluster approach to securing protective equipment for health care workers.
“This accomplished and experienced team will work to get the pandemic under control so that the American people can get back to their lives and to their loved ones,” Biden said.