Joe Biden gave an unequivocal defense of vaccines on Wednesday, responding to President Donald Trump’s contention that he and running mate Kamala Harris are casting doubt on their safety.
Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, leveled his own attack on the Republican president, saying he's put Americans at risk by ignoring science.
“Let me be clear,” Biden said after a 90-minute briefing from experts on COVID-19. “I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump.”
Biden also said he would issue an executive order requiring people to wear masks in public if it were deemed legal, after first urging governors to do so in their states.
In remarks after a lengthy briefing on vaccines, Biden said the public should listen to scientists when considering the safety of a potential vaccine rather than Trump.
“We can’t afford to repeat those fiascoes when it comes to a vaccine” he said of Trump’s response to the virus. “I trust vaccines. I trust scientists but I don’t trust Donald Trump.”
Earlier, his advisers stressed the importance of universal mask use and avoiding indoor gatherings as much as possible.
“Every time we open indoor bars, indoor gyms, we see an uptick” in the number of cases, said Zeke Emanuel, the vice provost for global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania.
The Trump administration released its coronavirus vaccine distribution strategy on Wednesday, with the goal of ensuring vaccines will be shipped to administration sites within 24 hours of approval from U.S. regulators. The federal guidance issued to states comes as the White House is funding various vaccine candidates as part of Operation Warp Speed.
As the Trump administration promises a vaccine in the next few weeks, Biden advisers expressed caution about the ability to distribute one quickly. Though hopeful about its prospects, David Kessler, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, told Biden that Americans should not expect a rapid decline in cases before January if a vaccine becomes available because of “limited distribution” capacity.
But top U.S. health officials offered conflicting estimates Wednesday of when Americans should expect coronavirus vaccines to be widely available. Paul Mango, a deputy chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services, said every American should be able to get a shot by the end of March, while Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, put it at late second quarter or third quarter of 2021.
The development and distribution of a vaccine has become a political flash point in the presidential race, as Trump has promised a vaccine would be available “very soon” while Democrats and public health experts raise concerns about political interference in the process from the administration.
Biden’s team has begun to plan for how his administration would oversee the complicated task of distributing a vaccine if he wins and a vaccine becomes available early in his term. His advisers are leveraging their relationships with officials in U.S. government health agencies to monitor the administration’s progress.
His advisers are primarily focused on working through the supply chain issues that will impede efforts to quickly vaccinate millions of people and end a pandemic that has killed more than 196,000 people and crashed the U.S. economy into a recession.
Experts say shrinking capacity on container ships and cargo aircraft, outdated technology to transport fragile vials of medicine and inadequate refrigeration are among the problems any administration will face in distributing the vaccine.
One Biden adviser said the group is closely monitoring reports from experts on equitable distribution, particularly one from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The adviser said the group does not plan to publish recommendations before the election, but Biden advisers want to be prepared to start distribution as soon as a vaccine is ready.
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