In a speech delivered Tuesday, President-elect Joe Biden criticized the Trump administration for its slow rollout of the novel coronavirus vaccines, promising what he said will be a faster pace and a more robust plan to combat the spread when he takes office next month.
"The effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should," Biden said, in remarks delivered from Wilmington, Delaware, and livestreamed online. Biden noted that the current distribution of the two COVID-19 vaccines significantly lags behind the 20 million the Trump White House promised would be administered by year’s end.
"With only a few days left in December, we've only vaccinated a few million so far," Biden said, adding that if the vaccination program continues to move at its current pace, "it's going to take years not months to vaccinate the American people."
Though he said he could foresee a return to normalcy within the next year, Biden predicted that the next few weeks and months would be "maybe the toughest" of the entire pandemic.
"We need to steel our spines for what's ahead," Biden said. "And each of us needs to do what we can to protect our families, ourselves, and our fellow Americans."
Biden also used his remarks to lay out his own plan for combating COVID-19, which includes invoking the Defense Production Act to boost production of materials needed to distribute the vaccines, as well as personal protective equipment.
The former vice president also reiterated a plan to ask the American people to wear face masks for the first 100 days he's in office, in order to curb the spread of the virus, which has spiked throughout the country in recent weeks.
The speech echoed promises Biden made earlier this month, when he said his administration would administer 100 million vaccinations within his first 100 days as president. He added on Tuesday that it would also send mobile units to hard-to-reach communities and set up vaccination sites across the country.
Biden also doubled down on a goal to have most K-12 schools open by the end of his first 100 days in office. That can't happen, he added, without funding from Congress and an adherence to guidelines by the American people.
Biden said that, due to the spread of the virus, his response plan might not begin to yield tangible results until March.
"This will take more time than anyone will like and more time than the promises from the Trump administration has suggested … [but] I'm going to move Heaven and Earth to get us going in the right direction," Biden said.
While President Trump is still in office, he's been largely silent on matters related to COVID-19 as of late, instead focusing on disproven claims of election fraud in the wake of his loss to Biden.
More than 336,000 American deaths have been attributed to the novel coronavirus as of Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker.
Still, experts warn that even worse viral pandemics could be on the horizon. On Monday, World Health Organization officials said COVID-19 is a "wake up call" during a year-end virtual media briefing.
“This pandemic has been very severe,” WHO emergencies chief Mike Ryan said, according to The Washington Post. “It has affected every corner of this planet. But this is not necessarily the big one.”
He continued: “These threats will continue. One thing we need to take from this pandemic, with all of the tragedy and loss, is we need to get our act together. We need to honor those we’ve lost by getting better at what we do every day.”
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.
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