US President-elect Joe Biden vows a relentless effort to fight Covid-19 the moment he takes office, warning that President Trump's vaccination drive is falling dangerously short.
US President-elect Joe Biden has criticised the Trump administration for the pace of distributing Covid-19 vaccines, saying it is "falling far behind."
Biden, speaking in Wilmington, Delaware on Tuesday, said some two million people have been vaccinated, well short of the 20 million President Donald Trump had promised by the end of the year.
Biden said on Tuesday that "it's gonna take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people‚" at the current pace.
He vowed to ramp up the current speed of vaccinations five to six times to 1 million shots a day, but acknowledged it "will still take months to have the majority of Americans vaccinated."
The president-elect said he has directed his team to prepare a "much more aggressive effort to get things back on track."
"I'm going to move heaven and earth to get us going in the right direction," Biden said.
Biden to invoke Korean War-era act
Speaking after a briefing by experts, Biden promised that as president he will undertake the "greatest operational challenge we've ever faced as a nation" to inoculate against the illness that has claimed more than 1.7 million lives globally.
Biden, who takes office on January 20, confirmed that he would invoke the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to force private industry to step up vaccine production for the government.
He also implored Americans to wear masks to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and said he would impose a mandate on face covers in areas where the federal government has jurisdiction, such as airplanes.
"We're planning a whole-of-government effort and we're going to work to set up vaccination sites and send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities," Biden said,
"We're going to make sure vaccines are distributed equitably so every person can get one, no matter the color of their skin and where they live."
Tough time ahead
He voiced confidence of a return to normality in 2021 – but not immediately.
"We might not see improvement until we're well into March as it will take time for our Covid response plan to begin to produce visible progress," Biden said.
"The next few weeks and months are going to be very tough – a very tough period for our nation, maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic."