President-elect Joe Biden warned Monday that “more people may die” from COVID-19 if the Trump administration does not begin to engage in a smooth transition of power.
Biden told reporters following a speech on his economic plan in Wilmington, Del., emphasizing the pressing need for his transition team to gain access to the Trump administration’s plan for distributing a future vaccine for the coronavirus.
“A vaccine is important. It’s of little use until you are vaccinated. So how do we get the vaccine, how do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated? What is the game plan? It is a huge, huge, huge undertaking to get it done,” Biden said.
“If we have to wait until Jan. 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind over a month, month and a half. And so, it’s important that it be done, that there be coordination now. Now or as rapidly as we can get that done,” he continued.
His speech came on the heels of news that Moderna’s vaccine for COVID-19 was found to be 94.5 percent effective in an interim analysis. Pfizer had said last week that its own vaccine showed 90 percent efficacy in a large trial.
President Trump has refused to concede and the General Services Administration (GSA) has not yet ascertained Biden as the winner of the presidential race, more than a week after news outlets projected him as the winner. Biden defeated Trump in the battlegrounds of Arizona, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia.
The ascertainment is needed to open up federal resources to support the transition and allow Biden and his team access to federal agencies and personnel, including officials involved in the pandemic response. The director of national intelligence has also refused to provide Biden access to intelligence reports.
Trump has made unsubstantiated allegations about widespread voter fraud that have been disputed by elections officials, while his campaign has filed multiple lawsuits challenging the election results.
Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien pledged Monday that there will be a smooth transition to a Biden White House “if the current lawsuits don’t work out for the president.”
“If there is a new administration, they deserve some time to come in and implement their policies,” O’Brien said. “
We may have policy disagreements but look, if the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner — and obviously things look that way now — we’ll have a very professional transition from the National Security Council. There’s no question about it.
Biden said Monday that it would be “a lot easier” if Trump were to begin complying with a transition and that he believed the outgoing president would do so sometime before Inauguration Day.
Biden said that, in the absence of that cooperation, he would engage with business and labor groups and both Democrats and Republicans in order to prepare to take office.
“It would make it a lot easier if the president were to participate,” Biden said. “I am hopeful that the president will be mildly more enlightened before we get to Jan. 20.”
Later, Biden said that he found Trump’s refusal to concede in the presidential race “more embarrassing for the country than debilitating for my ability to get started.
Amid the positive news on vaccines, coronavirus cases are currently surging across the country, causing state and local governments to tighten restrictions aimed at blunting the spread of the virus. Health experts have warned Americans against participating in large gatherings during the upcoming holiday season.
Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious diseases expert and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said Sunday that “it would be better” if government health experts could begin engaging with Biden’s team.
“As you know, I’ve been through multiple transitions now, having served six presidents for 36 years. And it’s very clear that the transition process that that we go through … is really important in a smooth handing over of the information as well as it’s almost like passing the baton in a race,” Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union.
Through its vaccine program, Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration plans to involve the U.S. military in distributing the vaccine. The administration hopes to distribute initial doses to vulnerable populations and front-line workers by January.