Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden said Wednesday that his team will soon be “weeks or months” behind in its COVID-19 response efforts and vaccine distribution plans without additional cooperation from the Trump administration.
“I am optimistic, but we should be further along,” Mr. Biden said at a virtual roundtable with “front-line” COVID-19 workers.
“We’ve been unable to get access to the kinds of things we need to know about the depth of the stockpiles — we know there’s not much at all,” he said.
He said they need a better sense of how vaccines will be distributed and who will be first in line.
“There’s a whole lot of things that we just don’t have available to us,” he said. “Unless it’s made available soon, we’re going to be behind by weeks or months being able to put together the whole initiative relating to the biggest promise we have with two drug companies coming along and finding 95% effectiveness, efficiency in the vaccines, which is enormous promise.”
He said that’s the only “slowdown” right now and that he’s put together “first-rate” staff that’s ready to go.
Pfizer and Moderna appear to be on track to win emergency authorization for their vaccines before the end of the year.
The increasingly dire warnings from Mr. Biden and his team stand in contrast to his earlier message about President Trump’s refusal to concede: more cooperation would be nice, but it’s not vital.
“We’re moving along knowing what the outcome will be,” Mr. Biden had said Monday. “I find this more embarrassing for the country than debilitating for my ability to get started.”
He did also say Monday that more people could die of the virus without better coordination.
The General Services Administration has not yet recognized Mr. Biden as the apparent winner of the election, which would unlock additional resources for the transition and enable Mr. Biden’s team to coordinate directly with the Trump administration.
Multiple media outlets projected Mr. Biden as the winner on Nov. 7, but Mr. Trump hasn’t conceded and is challenging the results in a handful of close states.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday there will be “complete, cooperative professional transitions and planning” when the GSA makes their determination.
Mr. Azar pointed out that many of the people who would be coordinating vaccine distribution efforts in a new administration are career officials who wouldn’t automatically leave once Mr. Trump exits.
“In the event of a transition, there’s really just total continuity that would occur,” Mr. Azar said at a briefing on the administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” effort on vaccines.
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