Joe Biden has pledged to deploy the US National Guard and FEMA resources to distribute Covid-19 vaccines across the US as part of a vaccine plan aimed at rapidly speeding up inoculations after a stalled rollout under Donald Trump’s administration that fell significantly short of its goals.
The president-elect, days before his inauguration on 20 January, will propose “new, federally supported community vaccination centres” and mobilise “thousands” of staff and contractors. He also pledged to fully reimburse states that rely on their own National Guard to help distribute vaccines.
He proposed vaccination sites inside schools, sports complexes and community centres, as well as mobile clinics, pharmacies, and centres serving Black and Latino communities and rural areas.
The president-elect also intends to invoke the Defense Production Act to accelerate the production of vaccine-related supplies.
More than 31 million doses have been distributed as of 15 January, though only 12.2 million have received a shot, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Roughly 1.6 million people have received both doses of the two fast-tracked vaccines.
But vaccinations under the Trump’s administration fell significantly short of initial goals to inoculate up to 20 million people by the end of 2020. By New Year’s Eve, fewer than 3 million Americans received their first dose.
The vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure so far,” he said in remarks from Delaware on Friday. “The honest truth is this things will get worse before they get better, and the policy changes we are going to be making [are] going to take time to show up in the Covid statistics.”
The president-elect’s plans to broaden access to vaccine while ensuring equitable distribution – with as many as 100 million doses within his first 100 days – includes expanding eligibility to people 65 and older as well as frontline workers.
“It won’t mean that everyone in these groups will get vaccinated immediately, as supply is not where it needs to be,” he said in remarks from Delaware on Friday. “But it will mean that as vaccines become available, they will reach more people who need them.”
His remarks followed the unveiling of a $1.9trn “American Rescue Plan” – his administration’s pitch to boost a lagging economy and provide direct relief to millions of Americans, including direct payments to supplement the recently approved $600 cheques.
The plan includes $160bn for the vaccine programme, with $20bn for distribution and $50bn for increased testing.
President-elect Biden underscored the urgency for vaccinations and congressionally approved aid, as the nation approaches a year since the onset of a public health crisis that has killed more than 390,000 Americans with confirmed infections reaching nearly 25 million.
States reported more than 23,000 Covid-19-related deaths this week, 25 per cent more than in any other week since the pandemic began, according to The COVID Tracking Project.
“The health of the nation is literally at stake,” Mr Biden said.
“You have my word," he added as he closed his remarks. "We will manage the hell out of this operation,”