Biden Embraces Vaccines, Science: ‘I Don’t Trust Donald Trump’

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Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden gave an unequivocal defense of vaccines on Wednesday, rejecting President Donald Trump’s attacks that he is casting doubt on their safety and blasted Trump for putting Americans at risk by ignoring science.

“Let me be clear,” Biden said after a 90-minute briefing from experts on Covid-19. “I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump.”

The former vice president urged Americans to wear masks and continue to practice social distancing, as public health experts warn the spread of the virus will accelerate as the weather cools in much of the country. If elected, Biden said he would issue an executive order requiring people to wear masks in public if it were deemed legal, if he failed in urging governors to do so in their states.

Biden Embraces Vaccines, Science: ‘I Don’t Trust Donald Trump’

At a White House briefing on Wednesday evening, Trump cast doubt on the efficiency of masks, calling them a “mixed bag.”

“Masks have problems, too,” Trump said. “The masks have to be handled very gently, very carefully.”

Trump said Biden’s comments that his administration could politicize vaccine development was dangerous. “I’m calling on Biden to stop promoting his anti-vaccine theories,” Trump said. “They’re recklessly endangering lives.”

Biden’s remarks came after he received the lengthy briefing on the status of vaccine development and distribution, and he warned about the Trump’s administration efforts to interfere in the process for political purposes.

“Scientific breakthroughs don’t care about calendars any more than the virus does,” he said. “They certainly don’t adhere to election cycles. And their timing, their approval and their distribution should never, ever be distorted by political considerations. They should be determined by science and safety alone.”

Biden expressed hope that a safe and effective vaccine would emerge in the coming months, but he also stressed the difficulty of distributing a vaccine. He said it would be as “complex and challenging as one of the most sensitive military operations” and that the most vulnerable should receive the shots first.

“It has to be done fairly and well,” he said. “It can’t be based on your tax returns, figuratively speaking.”

The development and distribution of a vaccine has become a political flash point in the presidential race, as Trump has promised a vaccine would be available “very soon” while Democrats and public health experts raise concerns about political interference in the process from the administration.

Vaccine Distribution Plan

The Trump administration released its coronavirus vaccine distribution strategy on Wednesday, with the goal of ensuring vaccines would be shipped to administration sites within 24 hours of approval from U.S. regulators. The federal guidance issued to states comes as the White House is financing various vaccine candidates as part of Operation Warp Speed.

As the administration promises an immediate vaccine, Biden advisers expressed caution about the ability to distribute one quickly. Though hopeful about its prospects, David Kessler, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, told Biden during the briefing that Americans should not expect a rapid decline in cases before January if a vaccine becomes available because of “limited distribution” capacity.

But top U.S. health officials offered conflicting estimates Wednesday of when Americans should expect vaccines to be widely available. Paul Mango, a deputy chief of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services, said every American should be able to get a shot by the end of March, while Robert Redfield, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, put it at the late second quarter or third quarter of 2021.

Biden’s team has begun to plan for how his administration would oversee the complicated task of distributing a vaccine if he wins and one becomes available early in his term. His advisers are also leveraging their relationships with officials in U.S. government health agencies to monitor the administration’s progress.

The advisers are primarily focused on working through the supply chain issues that would impede efforts to quickly vaccinate millions of people and end a pandemic that has killed more than 196,000 people and slammed the U.S. economy into a recession.

Experts say shrinking capacity on container ships and cargo aircraft, outdated technology to transport fragile vials of medicine and inadequate refrigeration are among the problems any administration will face in distributing the vaccine.

One Biden adviser said the group is closely monitoring reports from experts on equitable distribution, particularly one from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The adviser said the group does not plan to publish recommendations before the election, but Biden advisers want to be prepared to start distribution as soon as a vaccine is ready.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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