- President-elect Joe Biden warned Tuesday that it would take "years, not months, to vaccinate the American people" at the current rate.
- Latest government data shows about 200,000 people are being vaccinated a day, and that the US is set to fall short of its goal for 20 million vaccines by the end of 2020.
- Biden wants the US to administer 100 million shots within his first 100 days in office. This would require extra funding approved by Congress, he said.
- Even at this higher rate, it would still take months for the majority of Americans to be vaccinated, he said, adding that the situation may not improve until "well into March."
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President-elect Joe Biden warned Tuesday that it could take years for most Americans to be vaccinated against COVID-19 at current distribution rates, as he again pledged to deliver 100 million vaccines within his first 100 days in the White House.
Biden's prediction of a grim winter appeared aimed at lowering public expectations that the pandemic would be over soon after he takes office on January 20, while putting Congress on notice that he wants to significantly increase spending to expedite vaccine distribution, expand COVID-19 testing, and help reopen shuttered schools.
Biden said about 2 million people had received the initial dose of either Pfizer and BioNTech or Moderna's two-dose vaccines, which are the only shots authorized in the US. Biden has received his first shot.
US Department of Health and Human Services data shows that about 200,000 people are being vaccinated a day on average, with many states slow to get shots they have been allocated into people's arms.
At that rate, the White House is set to fall well short of its goal for 20 million people to be vaccinated by the end of 2020, per Bloomberg.
"The effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should," Biden said in Wilmington, Delaware. At the current rate, "it's going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people."
Shortly after Biden's remarks, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis said his state had discovered the nation's first known case of the highly infectious coronavirus variant B.1.1.7, which was originally documented in the UK. Scientists there believe the variant is more contagious than other previously identified strains of the SAR-CoV-2 variant - but no more severe in the symptoms it causes.
It has also been detected in several European countries, as well as in Canada, Australia, India, South Korea and Japan, among others.
Although experts believe newly approved COVID-19 vaccines will be effective against the variant, the emergence of a more highly transmissible strain of the virus makes a swift rollout of immunizations all the more critical.
Biden's goal of ensuring that 100 million vaccinations are administered by the end of his 100th day in office would mean "ramping up five to six times the current pace to 1 million shots a day," Biden said, noting that it would require Congress to approve additional funding.
Even at such an ambitious rate, it would still take months for the majority of Americans to be vaccinated, he said, adding that the situation may not improve until "well into March."
Biden also said he plans to invoke the Defense Production Act, which grants the president emergency powers to order expanded industrial output of key materials or products on grounds of national security, to accelerate production of vaccine supplies.
Trump has invoked the law during the pandemic.
To reopen schools safely, Biden said Congress would need to provide funding for additional transportation, so students can maintain social distancing, and improved ventilation in school buildings.
Congress also needs to fund more diagnostic testing and help pay for protective equipment for healthcare workers, Biden added.
Trump defended his administration's record after Biden concluded his remarks.
"It is up to the States to distribute the vaccines once brought to the designated areas by the Federal Government. We have not only developed the vaccines, including putting up money to move the process along quickly, but gotten them to the states," he said on Twitter.
Trump, who contracted COVID-19 in October, has often played down the severity of the pandemic and overseen a response many health experts say was disorganized and cavalier and sometimes ignored the science behind disease transmission.
To date, the respiratory virus has infected more than 19 million people and killed more than 334,000 in the United States.
One of the latest casualties of the pandemic was US Representative-elect Luke Letlow, a Louisiana Republican, who died on Tuesday of COVID-19, his campaign said. Letlow, 41, announced on December 18 that he had tested positive for the virus.
Dr. Atul Gawande, a member of Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, told CBS News the transition team still did not have all the information it needed to understand vaccine distribution bottlenecks.