In a speech Friday from Wilmington, Del., President-elect Joe Biden finally detailed his plan to fix America’s troubled COVID-19 vaccine rollout, proposing to more than double the nation’s current investment in vaccination to $20 billion while partnering with states and localities to create community vaccination sites, invoking the Defense Production Act to boost vaccine supply and launching a new, 100,000-person public health force to assist with deployment.
At a moment when COVID-19 cases are rising in nearly every state and deaths are regularly topping 4,000 a day, Biden’s message was clear: Help is on the way.
In sharp contrast to President Trump, who has treated vaccination as the responsibility of individual states, Biden believes it is a national issue that demands federal resources and a federal plan.
President-elect Joe Biden takes off his mask on Thursday before presenting his plan to combat COVID-19 and boost the economy. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
“Our plan is as clear as it is bold,” Biden said Friday. “Get more people vaccinated for free. Create more places for them to get vaccinated. Mobilize more medical teams to get the shots in people’s arms. Increase supply and get it out the door as soon as possible.”
“This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts ever undertaken by our country,” he continued. “But you have my word: We will manage the hell out of this operation.”
It’s no secret that America’s vaccine rollout has been “a dismal failure thus far,” as Biden put it. When Trump launched Operation Warp Speed, his “Manhattan Project-style” development effort, the goal was to deliver 300 million doses by the end of 2020. Later his administration slashed that estimate to 40 million doses, then 20 million. By the time Dec. 31 finally rolled around, just 2.6 million shots had been administered.
Problems with every aspect of the U.S. vaccination campaign — shortages in the supply chain; lack of funding and coordination from the federal government; resource and eligibility bottlenecks at the state level; even vaccine resistance from medical workers — have slowed the process.
As a result, a mere 3.6 percent of Americans have received shots as of Jan. 14. For a sense of what’s achievable elsewhere, Israel is moving so fast that it has given shots to 16 percent of its combined population with Palestine even though it has caused controversy by refusing to vaccinate Palestinians.