Biden officials on Sunday affirmed that although the President’s goal of 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office is a challenge in itself after former President Trump left the country with no real vaccine distribution plan, it is just the beginning of the new administration moving to pick up the pieces following the Trump administration’s failure to hit its own targets on distributing COVID-19 vaccines.
On Sunday, Biden officials spoke to the tumultuous challenges facing the new administration after local governments were not given sufficient guidance or resources to effectively distribute doses to hard-hit communities under the Trump administration — confirming TPM’s months-long reporting of the myriad of failures that came with the Trump administration’s decision to leave vaccine distribution plans entirely up to the states once Operation Warp Speed delivered the vaccines to them.
Biden officials and nominees on Sunday stressed that the new administration is working to address the lack of supply of COVID-19 vaccines by prioritizing coordination between the federal government and the states.
Here’s how Biden officials and nominees addressed concerns over Biden’s goal of 100 million COVID-19 vaccinations in his first 100 days in office as the country reels from more than 400,000 fatalities amid the pandemic thus far:
White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain
Klain told “Meet the Press” that Biden’s aim is “ambitious” but “not our final goal.”
“One-hundred million shots is a bold, ambitious goal, but we need to keep going after that,” Klain said. “That is our first goal, it’s not our final goal, it’s not the endpoint, it’s just a metric the American people can watch and measure how we are doing.”
Asked about the significant gap of more than 20 million between the number of vaccines distributed and administered thus far, Klain said that there are a number of fixes needed to address the “complex” problem that the Biden administration inherited from Trump’s. Although the Trump administration did make “progress we are building on” with the development of vaccines and the initial wave of distribution, Klain stressed that a wider distribution plan “did not really exist when we came into the White House.”
Klain added that the “fundamental difference” between the Biden and Trump administrations to approaching vaccine distribution is that the current administration will “take responsibility at the federal government.”
“We’re going to own this problem. We’re going to work closely with the states, they are key partners in getting this done, but we’re also going to do the work ourselves,” Klain said. “We’re going to set up these federal vaccination centers to make sure that in states that don’t have vaccination sites, we fill those gaps. We’re going to work closely with the manufacturers to ramp up production.”
Biden chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci
On CBS, Fauci clarified that 100 million shots in individuals means that “some people who will have gotten both shots and some will still be on their first shots.”
In light of Trump administration Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar saying in December that just with Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine, 100 million shots could be distributed by the end of February, Fauci was pressed on whether Biden’s goal putting that benchmark out in April mean that the President is deliberately setting expectations low.
After denying that’s the case, Fauci said that Biden’s COVID-19 vaccination goals for his first 100 days in office are indeed a challenge, but that it should be viewed as a “floor, not a ceiling.”
“It is going to be a challenge. I think it was a reasonable goal that was set,” Fauci said. “We always want to do better than the goal you’ve set, but it is really a floor and not a ceiling. The most important thing, the message that gets lost in this back and forth is that we’ve got to vaccinate as many people as we possibly can as quickly as we possibly can.”
SETTING EXPECTATIONS: “It is really a floor and not a ceiling,” Biden Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci tells @margbrennan about expectations of getting widespread doses out to Americans.
"It is going to be a challenge. I think it was a reasonable goal that was set." pic.twitter.com/WG0sr0Dd53
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 24, 2021
CDC Director Rochelle Walensky
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Walensky shared her concerns over the lack of COVID-19 supplies “probably going to be the most limiting constraint early on” in Biden’s presidency, but that the administration is “really hoping that after that first hundred days we will have much more production.”
Walensky, however, indicated that the data she had seen on COVID-19 vaccine distribution so far are an immediate concern rather than a long-term issue.
“We have every indication that over time we will get more and more vaccine, so we certainly can’t predict any of the obstacles that would come in our way here,” Walensky said, before going on to add that she hopes supply concerns would ease by March.
HHS Secretary Nominee Xavier Becerra
When asked on CNN whether Biden’s goal of 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days is ambitious enough, Becerra agree that it’s “ambitious” and that the administration will “need to do even more” while criticizing “how what we inherited didn’t work.”
After insisting that Biden, unlike Trump, will “give people the plan” as well as facts, Becerra said that the President will “reply on cooperation.”
Responding to criticism that Biden is trying to set lower expectations for vaccine distribution in order to get a political achievement, Becerra cautioned that “if the plane is diving like this, you’re certainly not going to see it appear like this overnight.”
“What you’re trying to do is get the plane from being like this to getting straightened out, and then going like this,” Becerra said. “In 100 days, getting 100 shots out there on vaccines, 100 million shots out there in vaccines, is incredibly important. It’s ambitious, it’s bold, it’s doable. We have to do it. But we have to recognize that we’re doing it while the plane is in a dive like this.”
“We can do better, we cannot only control Covid, but get us back to real normality, but it takes everybody. All hands-on deck,” says President Biden’s HHS Secretary nominee Xavier Becerra. #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/ySxspuoJqh
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) January 24, 2021
Surgeon General nominee Vivek Murthy
Murthy similarly emphasized that Biden’s goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days in office is “a floor, it’s not a ceiling. ”
“It’s also a goal that reflects the realities of what we face, what could go right but also what could go wrong,” Murthy said, before adding that it’s “going to take a lot of work” when it comes to “dispelling this disinformation, working on the supply, increasing distribution channels.”
Murthy added that it’s not just enough to increased COVID-19 vaccination supplies, but to also have strategic distribution channels in place.
“What we’ve got to do here is not just, again, increase supply — which we can do using the Defense Production Act, making specific syringes that can extract more vaccine from the Pfizer bottles — but we’ve also got to set up the kind of distribution channels, like mobile units, like strategically placed community vaccination centers, that can reach people who traditionally are hard to reach and don’t have access to health care,” Murthy said.
Murthy said it’s a priority of the Biden administration to track progress on COVID-19 vaccinations by ensuring “we have data on where the vaccine is being administered, so that we can ensure that it, in fact, is being distributed equitably.”
“He set a goal of 100 million shots in his first 100 days … that’s a floor, it’s not a ceiling,” Biden’s nominee for Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says when pressed on whether the Biden administration’s vaccination plan is ambitious enough. https://t.co/revKTaAEyP pic.twitter.com/vgD1MuRgu4
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 24, 2021