Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden on Wednesday said that the US needs “an effective distribution plan” for a COVID-19 vaccine — before admitting he didn’t study the plan put out by the Trump administration earlier in the day.
“They haven’t put one in place for real yet, number one. Number two, I haven’t seen the detail of it. And it may be — it may be a very good plan as is,” Biden said at a press conference in Wilmington, Del.
The former vice president called for a distribution plan that resembles the one unveiled in government documents earlier on Wednesday.
“If I’m elected president, I’ll begin by implementing an effective distribution plan. From the minute I take office — that’s what I discussed with the experts in a briefing today,” Biden said.
Biden said his plan would include “a detailed timetable for when people will get the vaccine, clear delineation of priority of populations that get the vaccine [and] a specific means and mechanism for shipping and storing vaccine at appropriate temperatures.”
Biden stressed his concern about the temperature-controlled transportation of a vaccine and decisions on who would get the shots first.
“It would go first, as laid out for me today, to first responders doctors and nurses,” Biden said. After that, “the first would go to the people most susceptible.”
Biden was 80 minutes late to a scheduled press briefing and took questions from a select list of journalists approved by his staff.
Earlier in the day, the Defense Department and Department of Health and Human Services released plans for vaccine distribution amid hopes for positive results in October from clinical trials.
The new plan calls for rapid distribution of a vaccine free of cost and anticipates two doses administered 21 to 28 days apart. Health care workers and vulnerable people would be prioritized in the first wave.
States and local communities will need to devise precise plans for receiving and locally distributing vaccines, some of which will require special handling such as refrigeration or freezing. States and cities have a month to submit plans.
The Trump administration has preemptively purchased vaccine candidates.
At his press briefing, Biden said, “I trust vaccines” but not necessarily if one is approved by US health regulators under President Trump. He called for independent scientific oversight of any vaccine approved by a US drugmaker in partnership with federal health authorities.
Republicans have slammed Biden and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) for questioning the efficacy of potential vaccines.
“If a vaccine is ready to go, it should be totally transparent, the basis upon which that decision was made,” Biden said.
The Democratic candidate also repeated his intention to impose a national mask-wearing mandate, if his attorneys approve the idea.
“Our legal team thinks I can do that based upon the degree to which there’s a crisis in those states, and how bad things are for the country,” Biden said of a national mask mandate. “The question is whether I have the legal authority … if I did, I would.”