Health and Science

President-elect Biden says 'more people may die' from Covid if Trump continues to delay transition

Key Points
  • President-elect Joe Biden said that "more people may die" from the coronavirus if the Trump administration doesn't begin coordinating vaccine distribution.
  • Biden told reporters that he "wouldn't hesitate" to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.
  • He also applauded Republican governors for instituting mask mandates in their states as outbreaks surge.
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President-elect Joe Biden says the only reason people question the vaccine is because of Donald Trump

President-elect Joe Biden said on Monday that "more people may die" from the coronavirus if the Trump administration doesn't begin coordinating with his team on plans to vaccinate more than 300 million Americans against the virus.

"If we have to wait until Jan. 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind, over a month and a half," Biden said during a press briefing. "And so, it's important that it be done, that there be coordination now."

Biden's chief of staff, Ron Klain, the former Ebola czar under President Barack Obama, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that Biden's coronavirus advisors would meet with the leading drug companies developing coronavirus vaccines this week.

However, Klain said the president-elect's top health officials can't coordinate with federal government employees until the General Services Administration approves the transition process. Trump has refused to concede the election, though he acknowledged in a tweet posted Sunday that Biden had won, before walking back that comment.

"More people may die if we don't coordinate," Biden told reporters on Monday. "How do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated? What's the game plan? It's a huge, huge, huge undertaking."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNBC on Monday that between Moderna and Pfizer, there will be roughly 40 million doses of vaccine available by the end of this year, enough to inoculate about 20 million people, since both vaccines require two shots.

The goal is to provide enough coronavirus vaccine doses to all Americans who want to be vaccinated against the disease by the second quarter of 2021, Azar said. There are roughly 331 million Americans.

"It's going to take a while for the vaccine to be able to be available and distributed," Biden said, encouraging Americans to continue wearing face coverings in the meantime.

Moncef Slaoui, who runs the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed Covid-19 vaccine program, told CNBC shortly after Biden's remarks that he will continue to work quickly toward developing and distributing an authorized vaccine.

"Since day one, our objective has been to go fast. And absolutely every day and every hour counts, and that's why we are where we are," Slaoui said on "Closing Bell." And clearly, we would hope there is no disruption because of the transition."

The president-elect also told reporters Monday that he "wouldn't hesitate" to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

"It's important that people who are in the greatest need get it," Biden said during a press briefing. "I wouldn't hesitate to get the vaccine, but I also want to set an example."

On Monday, Moderna reported preliminary phase three trial data that showed its coronavirus vaccine is more than 94% effective in preventing Covid-19. Those results follow similar findings from Pfizer, which announced last week that early data shows its vaccine is more than 90% effective.

"I think we're on a clear path now. We're on a clear path with the international community and international leaders, and the scientific community have focused on these two vaccines," Biden said. "They appear to be ready for prime time, ready to be used. And if that continues along those roads, I would take the vaccine."

Biden also said that the only reason people are hesitant about the vaccine's safety is because of Trump, who once suggested the U.S. Food and Drug Administration could approve a vaccine before Election Day.

White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern told CNBC: "President Trump spearheaded Operation Warp Speed, empowering the scientific community to develop safe and effective vaccines five times faster than ever before in order to save millions of lives." Democrats have "been playing politics" by "sowing doubts about the vaccines," he wrote in an email.

Infectious disease experts have warned, however, that a Covid-19 vaccine won't help the U.S. much this winter since they'll be available in very limited quantities. The nation is reporting a weekly average of roughly 148,725 new Covid-19 cases every day, soaring to record highs as scientists warn Americans that the next few months of the pandemic could be the worst.

Biden applauded Republican leaders, including Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, for instituting mask mandates in their states as coronavirus outbreaks surge. With Thanksgiving only 10 days away, he also urged people to limit their holiday gatherings to a maximum of 10 people with everyone wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance.

"I just want to make sure that we're able to be together next Thanksgiving, next Christmas," Biden said. "It's an international health crisis."

— CNBC's Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this report.

Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that Ron Klain appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

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President-elect Joe Biden: 'I just want to make sure we're able to get together next Thanksgiving'