The president made the remarks at a news conference at the National Institutes of Health as his administration announced it had secured hundreds of millions of additional COVID-19 vaccine doses, enough to inoculate the vast majority of Americans by the end of the summer. The U.S. now has contracts for 600 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, enough for 300 million of the country’s 330 million residents.
Biden praised scientists for developing a slate of vaccines in record time, two of which, made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, have received emergency use approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. But the president said it was “no secret that the vaccination program was in much worse shape than my team and I anticipated.”
“While scientists did their job in discovering vaccines in record time, my predecessor — I’ll be very blunt about it — did not do his job in getting ready for the massive challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans,” Biden said. “He didn’t order enough vaccines. He didn’t mobilize enough people to administer the shots. He didn’t set up federal vaccine centers where eligible people could go and get their shots.”
The comments reference a spate of reporting about the Trump administration’s fumbling of vaccine contracts. The former president’s team also put much of the burden on states for their vaccine program rollouts and often failed to deliver promised doses to regions hard hit by the virus. Trump also turned down multiple offers from Pfizer late last year to buy millions of additional doses of its vaccine.
The vaccine rollout has accelerated in recent weeks, and a majority of Americans now say they know someone who’s already received the vaccine. But many vulnerable people are still struggling to get vaccination appointments even as the Biden administration pledges to inoculate 300 million people by the end of July. The president said the logistical challenge of doing so would be “gigantic.”
Biden said Thursday that when he entered the White House, the vaccine rollout was a “big mess” and said officials had “no plan to vaccinate most of the country. “
“It’s going to take time to fix, to be blunt with you,” he added. “I promised, when I did my inaugural address, that I’d always be straight with you — give it to you straight from the shoulder. I will not walk away when we make a mistake; I’ll acknowledge it and tell you the truth.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, predicted this week that April would be a key milestone in the fight against the virus and almost anyone would be able to register for a vaccination appointment as the pace of inoculations grows.
“By the time we get to April, that will be what I would call, for better wording, ‘open season,’ namely, virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show.
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