(CN) — President-elect Joe Biden acknowledged plans to focus on getting certain frontline workers vaccinated first has made the process too slow and rigid, but he also blamed the current administration for ineptitude during the rollout process.
“The more people we vaccinate and the faster we do it, the sooner we can put this pandemic behind us,” the president-elect said in a speech Friday afternoon.
Biden, who will take over as president on Jan. 20, encouraged opening up vaccinations to anyone over 65, a process that has already been implemented in several states where vaccines have languished in freezers due to the bureaucratic process.
“We will immediately work with states to open up vaccinations to more priority groups,” he said. “The implementation has been too rigid and confusing.”
The president-elect also said the coronavirus will get worse before it gets better and called upon Americans to follow public health protocols in the meantime, including wearing masks.
He lashed out at Republican lawmakers who refused to wear masks while sheltering during the Capitol riot last week.
"Quite frankly, it was shocking to see members of the Congress, while the Capitol was under siege by a deadly mob of thugs, refuse to wear a mask while they were in secure locations,” he said. "What the hell's the matter with them? It's time to grow up."
Biden called for more involvement of the federal government, specifically marshaling the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up vaccination sites around the country. It marks a departure from the Trump administration, which has been largely hands-off in much of its Covid-19 response, delegating most efforts to individual states.
“By the end of our first month in office we will have 100 federally supported centers across the nation that will ultimately vaccinate millions of people,” he said.
Biden has been sharply critical of the current administration’s response to the virus and its effort to swiftly apportion vaccines.
“The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure so far,” Biden said.
He said the creation of more vaccination sites is an imperative step in ramping up distribution, encouraging the National Guard to assist with transportation and logistical aspects of the effort.
Biden said the effort must still focus on getting vaccines into marginalized communities and called for the creation of mobile vaccine clinics to help reach some of the underserved regions of the country.
“We will open up centers in cities, small towns and rural communities,” he said.
The president-elect also proposed making coronavirus vaccines widely available in local pharmacies throughout the country.
Despite calls to open up the vaccination process to those 65 and older and other frontline workers aside from those in the health care industry, Biden said he recognized one of the current problems is a lack of supply.
To address this shortcoming, he said his administration will invoke the Defense Production Act to spur faster manufacturing of the vaccine and attendant supplies, such as vials, stoppers, syringes and needles.
“We have already identified the suppliers to work with our team,” he said.
Biden’s speech comes as states blast the federal government’s vaccination distribution program.
Oregon Governor Kate Brown said her state was informed it would not be receiving additional doses next week despite earlier assurances from the Trump administration. She called the news “deception on a national scale.”
President Donald Trump, who was impeached this week for instigating a mob of supporters to infiltrate the U.S. Capitol last week, has been largely checked out of the vaccination effort and other aspects of the job as the coronavirus ravages the nation unabated.
“What we’re seeing is fully in line with the dysfunction that has characterized the Trump administration’s entire response to Covid-19,” said Alena Yarmosky, spokesperson for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam. “President-elect Biden cannot be sworn in fast enough.”
Michael Pratt, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said the problem lies with the expectations of the states and not the federal government.
“States are not seeing a reduction of anything,” Pratt told The Associated Press. “They may be seeing a reduction of expectations.”
As of Friday, the federal government had distributed over 31 million doses of the two Covid vaccines approved in this country. But only about 12.3 million doses have been injected, according to online tracking by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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