Presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden said Wednesday that his team will soon be “weeks or months” behind on COVID-19 and vaccine-distribution plans without additional cooperation from the Trump administration.
He said news about potential vaccines looks promising but that his staff hasn’t been able to pry basic information from President Trump’s team about key supply stockpiles and how the vaccines might be distributed.
“There’s a whole lot of things that we just don’t have available to us,” Mr. Biden said at a virtual roundtable with “frontline” health-care workers.
“Unless it’s made available soon, we’re going to be behind by weeks or months” on vaccine efforts, he said.
Pfizer and Moderna appear to be on track to win emergency authorization for their vaccine candidates before the end of the year.
Dr. Nicole Lurie, a Biden campaign adviser and former top health official in the Obama administration, estimated that every day of delay translates to hundreds of people who will likely get sick and die.
“It permeates every single part of the response and it means more people will die and the situation will continue to become only more dire between and Jan. 20,” Dr. Lurie said.
The increasing alarm from Mr. Biden and his team stands in contrast to his earlier message about Mr. Trump’s refusal to concede the election: 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.
“It doesn’t require there to be an absolute winner — it says the ‘apparent winner,’” Mr. Biden said Wednesday.
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, to little success so far.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday there will be “complete, cooperative professional transitions and planning” when the GSA makes its 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.
The administration has said much of its vaccine development planning is essentially open-source and available for anyone.
Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said Mr. Trump’s team isn’t exactly guarding state secrets when it comes to facilitating the development and distribution of a vaccine.
“As much information as we’ve received, most of it has been unclassified - there’s very little classified on this particular stuff,” Mr. Rounds said. “So the vast majority of that information is readily available today to everyone.”