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Biden vows to distribute 100 million vaccine doses in first 100 days

Biden introduces health team & pandemic plan
Biden introduces health team & pandemic plan 21:17

Washington — President-elect Joe Biden formally announced Tuesday the key members of his health team, who will play crucial roles as the nation confronts a spike in coronavirus infections and prepares for distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, and vowed to deliver 100 million vaccines in his first 100 days in office.

In introducing the nation to his health team, the president-elect unveiled three objectives, developed in consultation with Dr. Anthony Fauci, that he intends to complete in his first 100 days to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

"I'm absolutely convinced that in 100 days, we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better," the president-elect said in remarks from Wilmington, Delaware.

First, Mr. Biden plans to require the American people to wear a mask for the first 100 days in office where he is legally able to enforce compliance, such as in federal buildings and on interstate travel on planes, trains and buses. Second, he is tasking his health leaders with distributing 100 million coronavirus vaccinations to the American people in his first 100 days, and third, he is seeking to open the majority of the country's schools.

"It's near the end of one of the toughest years we've faced as a nation," Mr. Biden said, noting the announcement comes at a "critical time." "Out of our collective pain, we're going to find collective purpose to control the pandemic, to save lives and to heal as a nation." 

Mr. Biden is poised to nominate California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to helm the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as Dr. Vivek Murthy, who currently co-chairs the president-elect's coronavirus advisory board, to serve as U.S. surgeon general. Rochelle Walensky has been selected as Mr. Biden's nominee to lead the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tasked with addressing the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, another co-chair of the president-elect's coronavirus advisory board, was tapped as the COVID-19 Equity Task Force co-chair. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was selected to be Mr. Biden's chief medical adviser on the coronavirus. Jeff Zients will be counselor to the president and COVID-19 response coordinator, and Natalie Quillian was selected as deputy coordinator of the COVID-19 response.

"It's a team of world-class experts at the top of their fields, crisis-tested, defined by a deep sense of duty, honor and patriotism," Mr. Biden said. "They're already ready to jump in."

The president-elect praised Fauci, who has at times been sidelined by the White House and attacked by President Trump, as "trusted, a truth-teller, a patriot."

"Like every good doctor, he'll tell me what I need to know, not what I want to know," Mr. Biden said of Fauci.

In pre-recorded remarks, Fauci said he looks forward to advising the president-elect and working alongside his administration to fight the coronavirus, emphasizing decisions will be made based on science.

"Whether it's maintaining social distancing and not congregating indoors, or the 100-day challenge you've described on masking or to get as many people vaccinated as possible, these actions are bold but they are doable and essential to help the public avoid unnecessary risks, to help us save lives, reopens schools and businesses, and to eventually beat the pandemic," he said.

The incoming president said the public health experts he is tapping to serve in his administration will work hand-in-hand with his economic, national security and foreign policy teams to defeat the coronavirus not just in the U.S. but worldwide.

As with Mr. Biden's other future nominees, Becerra would make history if confirmed by the Senate, becoming the first Latino Health and Human Services secretary. While he has no medical training, Becerra has been a leading advocate for the Affordable Care Act, which Mr. Biden plans to expand once he's in office. Becerra also served in Congress for more than two decades.

Mr. Biden's health team will move into their roles as a coronavirus vaccine is being given to broader swaths of the population. Vaccines developed by Pfizer, with Germany's BioNTech, and Moderna are awaiting emergency use authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration, and the first batch of vaccinations is expected to roll out to health care workers and residents of long-term care facilities once the green-light is given, likely in mid-December.

A key challenge for the nominees and appointees will be building public trust in a coronavirus vaccine and persuading Americans to get vaccinated. A Gallup poll conducted from November 16 to November 29 found that 63% of Americans said they would be willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine approved by the FDA, an increase from 58% at the end of October. The surge in Americans who said in November they would be willing to receive a vaccine still trails behind the 66% who said they would be willing to do so in July.

Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton all said they would get the vaccine on camera to raise public trust, as would Fauci when it is his turn to receive it, he said.

Mr. Biden has so far announced key members of his national security, foreign policy and economic teams, and he is set to unveil his pick to lead the Defense Department, expected to be retired Army General Lloyd Austin, this week. 

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