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Joe Biden vowed on Tuesday to ensure 100m coronavirus vaccinations would be administered to Americans during his first 100 days in the White House – as Donald Trump held a parallel event where he ignored the deepening public health crisis, instead repeating his false claims that he, not Biden, won the November election.
The Democratic president-elect on Tuesday introduced his new leadership team covering healthcare and laid out an aggressive plan to defeat the coronavirus pandemic that contrasted sharply with the Trump administration’s efforts.
Speaking at an event in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, Biden formally introduced the team of scientists and doctors he assembled to guide the nation through what they hope will be the final stage of a public health crisis that has killed nearly 284,000 American lives and is one of the worst crises ever to hit the US.
Preparing to assume office in the midst of what experts believe could be the pandemic’s darkest hour, Biden outlined his priorities for his first three months in office, including a commitment to distribute “100m shots in the first 100 days”, a plea for all Americans to wear masks during that period to prevent the spread of the virus and a promise to open a “majority of schools”.
“Out of our collective pain, we are going to find a collective purpose,” Biden said, striking a somber tone as he acknowledged the toll of the brutal coronavirus surge averaging more than 2,200 deaths per day. “To control the pandemic, to save lives and to heal as a nation.”
Leading what Biden dubbed his “core Covid healthcare team” was Xavier Becerra, his nominee for secretary of health and human services. Becerra, the son of Mexican immigrants, served 12 terms in Congress and is California’s the attorney general. He would be the first Latino to serve as US health secretary.
“The mission of the Department of Health and Human Services has never been as vital or as urgent as it is today,” Becerra said via video link from California.
Among the other members of the health team is the former surgeon general Vivek Murthy, whom Biden nominated again for the role, and Rochelle Walensky, whom he picked to lead the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, accepted Biden’s invitation to stay on as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a position he has held since 1984, and will serve as Biden’s chief medical adviser.
“Like every good doctor, he’ll tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know,” Biden said of Fauci, who has become one of the most prominent and trusted sources of information during the coronavirus epidemic, despite his turbulent relationship with Trump. Biden said he was honored to be the seventh president Fauci would serve.
In a pre-recorded video, Fauci said the current public health crisis was “the toughest one we have ever faced as a nation” and warned that the “road ahead will not be easy”.
Echoing Fauci, Biden and his nominees were clear-eyed about the challenges that lay ahead. The promise of multiple vaccines has raised hopes, but his team will be judged by its execution of what Biden vowed would be the “most efficient mass vaccination plan in US history”. A coronavirus vaccine by the drugmaker Pfizer is expected to receive approval by the Food and Drug Administration as soon as this week.
Still, “developing a vaccine is only one herculean task; distributing it is another”, Biden said, acknowledging that it may take longer than expected and would require persuading skeptical Americans to take the vaccine.
That, Biden said, risked slowing the process. He implored Congress to pass a coronavirus economic relief package that would help finance the administration of the vaccines. Forestalling aid, Biden warned, could dramatically “slow and stall” the distribution process.
Biden vowed a starkly different approach from that of the current occupant of the White House, who has spent his final weeks in office ignoring the crisis, fixated instead on overturning the results of an election he lost with increasingly wild legal challenges.
Whereas Trump has long downplayed the threat of the disease and disregarded public health guidelines, Biden, who used his presidential campaign to demonstrate the seriousness of the pandemic, said his team would “spare not a single effort” to defeat the virus and repeated his promise to be guided by science.
At a dueling event celebrating Operation Warp Speed, Trump boasted that his administration had procured vaccines much quicker than expected and claimed that even his critics were praising the achievement as “one of the miracles of modern medicine”.
Yet the celebratory White House event came as his administration faced new scrutiny after the New York Times reported that the Trump administration declined an opportunity to purchase more doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine this summer. The White House has denied the story, though several news outlets have corroborated the reporting.
As the virus continues its uncontrolled spread, Trump has refused to use his remaining time in office – and significant political sway – to urge Americans to take safety precautions such as mask-wearing and social distancing. Biden, meanwhile, has little power to influence public response to the virus until he is inaugurated next month.
In his remarks from Delaware, Biden warned that a preliminary review of the Trump administration’s vaccine distribution plan found several shortcomings, and it remained unclear how the administration had planned to get vaccines from the containers into the arms of 330 million Americans. Until then, Biden said the “easiest” and most “patriotic” action Americans could take to protect their families and friends was to wear a mask.
“We’re in a very dark winter – things may well get worse before they get better,” Biden said. “It’s daunting. But I promise you, we’ll make progress.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Biden pledges ‘100m shots in 100 days’ as he introduces health team | Joe Biden