President-elect Joe Biden is promising to rapidly ramp up the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in the United States by cutting red tape to increase supply and get more shots into people’s arms rather than doses sitting in freezers waiting to be used.
On Friday, Biden formally rolled out his aggressive, federally backed delivery plan to meet his goal of getting 100 million shots administered in his first 100 days in office.
“Some wonder if we’re reaching too far with that goal—is it achievable?” Biden said. “Let me be clear: I’m convinced we can get it done.
“This is the time to set big goals and to pursue them with courage and conviction, because the health of the nation is at stake,” he added.
In the first month of his administration, Biden said, he would order the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up community vaccination centers, and the federal government will deploy mobile vaccination units throughout the country—an effort Biden compared to FEMA deployments after natural disasters. The administration also will cover 100 percent of the costs for states to deploy their National Guard units to distribute vaccines—up from the current 75 percent match. Biden can do this through emergency declaration executive orders.
Other parts of the plan include urging states to open up vaccinations to more priority groups than the Trump administration had recommended, adding teachers and grocery store workers, among others.
Biden said his administration also will release more vaccines when they are available, retaining just a small reserve for any shortages or delays. The Trump administration had initially held a reserve of half of the available vaccine doses, reversing that plan recently.
“This is a fundamentally different approach than the Trump administration’s,” Jeff Zients, Biden’s COVID coordinator, told Newsweek and other reporters after Biden’s address. “This is an approach based on science and informed and managed by a dedicated group of experts.”
Nearly 390,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19 complications.
Biden has previously floated COVID-19 vaccination ideas, including his plan to use the Defense Production Act to speed up the production of materials needed to produce and distribute vaccines. But Friday’s address was the first revelation of what he will do to immediately start on his 100 million goal, which would require 1 million vaccinations a day.
“Our plan is as clear as it is bold,” Biden said. “This will be one of the most challenging operations ever undertaken by our country, but you have my word, we’re gonna manage the hell out of it.”
About 12.3 million vaccine doses have been administered in the United States to date, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The daily count is now averaging just under a million a day, after an initially slow start, for which the Trump administration has blamed states.
But Biden dismissed Trump’s Operation Warp Speed vaccination effort as a “dismal failure.” The name will no longer be used for the nation’s COVID-19 response, incoming White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed Friday.
The renaming and criticism will likely further rankle President Donald Trump, who has touted Operation Warp Speed as one of the great successes of his administration. Trump, who conceded that he lost the election to Biden only after Trump supporters rioted at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, has feared that Biden would tarnish the effort, which also aided the rapid development of coronavirus vaccines in less than a year.
The White House didn’t immediately respond to Newsweek‘s request for comment on Biden’s vaccine proposal or the decision to drop the name that Trump used for his administration’s coronavirus response operation. Trump has been banned from Twitter, so he hasn’t responded directly.