President-elect Joe Biden on Friday unveiled a broad plan to accelerate the sluggish level of state by state COVID-19 vaccination rates by employing FEMA and the National Guard in a bid to make good on his promise to deliver 100 million jabs in his first 100 days in office.
The main pillars of Biden’s plan include the creation of mobile vaccination units to help inoculate communities in hard-to-reach areas and encouraging states to vaccinate anyone over the age of 65.
In a bid to get as many Americans vaccinated as quickly as possible, the Biden administration will also call up the National Guard and FEMA, the federal government’s lead disaster response agency, to stand up an initial 100 federally-supported community vaccination centers around the nation.
In a speech in Wilmington, Del., on Friday afternoon, Biden laid the blame for the slow rollout at the feet of state authorities.
“Implementation has been too rigid and confusing. If you were to ask most people today, they couldn’t tell you who exactly is getting vaccinated,” Biden said. “What they do know is there are tens of millions of doses of vaccine sitting unused in freezers around the country.”
Joe Biden announced his plan to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine rates on a state by state basis on January 15, 2021.ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images
For example, New York officials have been under increasing fire for the sluggish pace of getting shots into arms.
Many at-risk New Yorkers seniors have been forced to endure an agonizing wait for the miracle shot before Mayor Bill de Blasio sounded the alarm on Friday that the Big Apple is set to run out of coveted vaccine doses by next week.
Vaccination rates continue to fall far short of what public health officials had projected. As of Friday morning, 31.1 million shots have been distributed around the country but only 10.5 million people have received their first jab, according to CDC data.
In his speech Friday, Biden described an enormous military effort similar to the one the Trump administration ordered at the start of the pandemic when he deployed the USNS Comfort to help New York City’s overwhelmed hospitals.
“By the end of our first month in office, we will have 100 federally-supported centers across the nation that will ultimately vaccinate millions of people. Think of all places that are convenient and accessible: School gymnasiums, sports stadiums, community centers,” he said.
“As we build, we’re going to make sure it’s done equitably. We’re going to make sure that our vaccination centers are in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, in black and Latino communities and rural communities as well,” he continued.
“We will mobilize thousands of clinical and non-clinical professionals. Think of the people deployed in a natural disaster: experts from the Federal Emergency Management, from FEMA, and the Center for Disease Control, our Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, our military medical personnel, our first responders.”
Earlier Friday, de Blasio announced that head of New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, Deanne Criswell, will head to Washington to head Biden’s FEMA and efforts to combat the deadly virus.
Biden warned the pandemic would get worse before it gets better, dashing hopes that the delivery of the newly-approved drug would ease the ravages of the pandemic.
“Vice President Harris and I, we just received a briefing from our COVID team. Truthfully, we remain in a very dark winter. Infection rates are up 34 percent, more people are hospitalized because of COVID than ever before,” he said.
“Things will get worse before they get better. I told you I will always level with you. The policy changes we’re going to be making will take time to show up in the COVID statistics,” he said.
In early December, the president-elect unveiled his 100-day mandate to combat the scourge of the public health crisis which includes a 100-day mask mandate on federal property.