President Joe Biden on Friday slammed Donald Trump for failing to secure enough COVID-19 shots as he toured a Michigan facility where Pfizer Inc. is manufacturing its vaccine.
“My predecessor -- as my mother would say, God love him -- failed to order enough vaccines, Biden said Friday, repeating criticism he’s made of Trump. “Failed to mobilize the effort to administer the shots. Failed to set up vaccine centers.
In remarks delivered at the facility, Biden sought to reassure the public that the shots are safe and described efforts by his administration to increase supplies and vaccination sites. He also tried to rally support for his $1.9 trillion economic stimulus plan that he proposed in response to the pandemic.
He said there are variables that will affect how long the virus will plague the US but that he believes “we’ll be approaching normalcy by the end of this year. And, God willing, this Christmas will be different than last. But I can’t make that commitment to you.
The plant, in Portage, just outside Kalamazoo in southwest Michigan, is Pfizer’s largest manufacturing facility. There, the company’s coronavirus vaccine is formulated and filled into vials before being shipped for distribution.
Biden’s visit was just his second trip away from the East Coast since taking office last month, following a Tuesday appearance in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, at a CNN town hall. Last week, he toured the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, getting a first-hand look at federal research on the virus.
Since taking office, Biden has ordered an additional 100 million doses apiece of the Pfizer and Moderna Inc. vaccines, bringing the total to 600 million, which is enough for 300 million people. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each require two doses.
The president said Tuesday that Pfizer agreed to speed up shipments after Biden invoked the Defense Production Act, which enables the government to nationalize manufacturing in emergencies.
Despite the president’s criticism of Trump, Biden’s administration has made only modest changes to the previous administration’s vaccine plan. The Biden administration is invoking agreements reached under the Trump administration to expand the US supply.
The Trump administration last year purchased 200 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine and obtained options for another 400 million. Trump’s team also secured 200 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine, with options for 300 million more.
On Friday, Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla welcomed Biden, calling him a “great ally who helped obtain materials to expand capacity. Bourla said his company would use more of its manufacturing capacity and work with new suppliers to step up production of the vaccine it developed with BioNTech SE.
Biden has regularly touted his administration’s progress accelerating vaccinations, and has encouraged any American with the opportunity to get a shot.
“I can’t tell you a date when this crisis will end but I can tell you we’re doing everything possible to have that day come sooner rather than later, he said.
Before Friday’s virtual meeting of the leaders of the Group of Seven nations, White House officials on Thursday said the US would immediately commit $2 billion to the international effort known as Covax, which aims to help lower-income countries with vaccines. Biden will pledge an additional $2 billion through 2021 and 2022 on condition that other nations’ fulfill their commitments.
A third vaccine, from Johnson & Johnson, would require only one shot but the administration said Wednesday that it sees its distribution starting out slowly once it’s authorized by the FDA, which will likely happen within a few days of a Feb. 26 meeting to consider the company’s application and clinical data.
The US has given about 1.58 million shots per day over the past week, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker, up from an average of roughly 900,000 per day in the week before Biden took office. Supply is increasing as Pfizer and Moderna, the other company whose vaccine was granted emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, ramp up their production, as well as efforts led in part by the Biden administration to increase the number of people able to administer vaccines.
If the vaccine is authorized, the administration’s contract would be for 100 million doses by the end of June. White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said Wednesday that those deliveries would begin with just a few million doses and most distribution would be “back-end loaded.
Biden’s most recent visit to Michigan was during the final stretch of the presidential campaign, on Oct. 31, when he and former President Barack Obama made dueling appearances at rallies in Flint and Detroit. He won the state by more than 154,000 votes, which amounted to a 50.6 percent to 47.8 percent victory over Trump. Trump’s narrow 2016 win there, with a 0.23 percent margin over Hillary Clinton, was the first Republican presidential victory in the state since that of George H.W. Bush in 1988.