- The Washington Times - Friday, January 15, 2021

President-elect Joseph R. Biden released a vaccination plan Friday that says people 65 and older and front-line workers such as grocery-store employees should be given priority for protection against the coronavirus.

Dubbing the existing rollout a “dismal failure,” Mr. Biden said he is convinced he can get deliver 100 million shots in his first 100 days by adding federal muscle to state efforts. 

He will dispatch mobile vaccination units to hard-to-reach places and order the Federal Emergency Management Agency to set up “thousands” of vaccination centers.

He plans to reimburse states for 100% of the costs they incur when mobilizing the National Guard to administer the vaccines and invoke the Defense Production Act to compel the production of syringes and other equipment needed to speed up manufacturing.

“The health of the nation is literally at stake,” Mr. Biden said.

Like President Trump, he plans to expand the range of priority groups beyond health care workers and people in nursing homes, while increasing the number of pharmacies that can administer the shots.

But he did not espouse Mr. Trump’s recommendation that people who are younger than 65 and have medical conditions should get the vaccine — a parting idea that appeared to catch the president-elect’s team off guard.

Roughly 10.5 million people have been vaccinated so far, when accounting for the share that have gotten both of their doses.

All told, about 12.2 million of 31 million distributed doses have been shot into arms, according to a federal tracker. Expanding categories could tilt the scales and cause demand to exceed supply.

The incoming president warned that it will take time for supply to catch up with the push to expand the reach of the campaign. He also said the government needs to work with Black communities and other populations that are wary of vaccines.

“We need to address vaccine hesitancy and build trust in many communities,” Mr. Biden said in a speech from Wilmington, Delaware, less than a week before his inauguration alongside Vice President-elect Kamala D. Harris.

They will be tasked with combating a virus that is killing over 3,000 people per day in the U.S. and straining the health care system. Mr. Biden lowered expectations in his speech, saying Americans shouldn’t expect instant results.

“Things will get worse before they get better. I told you I’ll always level with you,” Mr. Biden said. He said Americans must keep up precautions and that it is a “patriotic act” to wear a mask. He said it was “shocking” to see congressional Republicans refuse a mask while lawmakers hid from the “thugs” who raided the Capitol last week.

“What the hell is the matter with them?” Mr. Biden said. “It’s time to grow up.”

The Trump administration stole some of Mr. Biden’s thunder Tuesday, announcing it would no longer hold doses back because it thinks manufacturing is going fast enough to ensure that initial recipients receive their second shot of the two-dose regimen.

The Biden team had planned to do the same thing. Mr. Biden said that’s still the plan, though it is still important for people to receive their second doses within 21 days for the Pfizer-BioNTech shots and 28 days for Moderna.

Mr. Biden must decide whether to toss a Trump plan that would reward states for moving fast by awarding them additional doses. The incoming administration is hesitant to punish slower-moving states.

The president-elect didn’t address the issue but vowed to give states a better idea of how many doses they will receive in each delivery.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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