Health and Science

Biden Covid advisor says more people 'will get infected and die' the longer Trump delays transition

Key Points
  • Without the formal approval from the General Services Administration, Biden's coronavirus advisors can't coordinate with federal government employees on the nation's pandemic response.
  • "I think this is really a major impediment to rolling out and scaling up the vaccine," said Dr. Celine Gounder, who sits on President-elect Joe Biden's Covid-19 panel.
  • The administration's vaccine distribution team confirmed on a conference call Thursday that they haven't briefed anyone on Biden's transition team, "and have no plans to do so," said Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Dr. Celine Gounde
CNBC

More people will be infected with Covid-19 and could die the longer the Trump administration delays the transition process and avoids coordinating the vaccine's distribution, a coronavirus advisor to President-elect Joe Biden said on Thursday.

Trump has refused to concede the election for nearly two weeks after it was called by multiple new outlets, including NBC News, for the former vice president. Trump acknowledged in a tweet Sunday that Biden had won before walking back that comment.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said the administration's vaccine distribution team confirmed on a conference call Thursday that they haven't briefed anyone on Biden's transition team, "and have no plans to do so."

"This is potentially catastrophic," he said in a tweet.

Without the formal approval from the General Services Administration, Biden's coronavirus advisors can't coordinate with federal employees on the nation's pandemic response, including how they plan to inoculate more than 300 million Americans as Covid-19 vaccines roll out next year, Ron Klain, Biden's chief of staff and the former Ebola czar under President Barack Obama, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.

"The fact that the GSA has not followed through with ascertainment of the election results is really a major impediment to us because we're not able to be on the inside of these very important discussions in terms of how these different vaccines are going to be distributed," Dr. Celine Gounder, who sits on Biden's Covid-19 panel and is an infectious disease specialist at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, told CNBC's "Squawk on the Street" on Thursday.

Other advisors for Biden have warned against the dangers of delaying the transition process. Dr. Eric Goosby, a member of Biden's task force, told CNBC on Tuesday that the team has grown "more and more concerned each day" as the transition stalls. Biden also warned on Monday that "more people may die" from Covid-19 if the president-elect's team waits until Jan. 20 to coordinate the vaccine's distribution.

"The longer we wait on transition the more people will get infected and die," Gounder told CNBC. "I think this is really a major impediment to rolling out and scaling up the vaccine."

The warnings come as Pfizer announced on Wednesday that the final analysis of its vaccine shows it's 95% effective in preventing Covid-19. On Monday, Moderna reported preliminary phase three trial data that similarly showed its vaccine is more than 94% effective in preventing Covid-19.

Between the two companies, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNBC on Monday that 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 doses to all Americans who want to be vaccinated against Covid-19 by the second quarter of 2021, Azar said. 

Public health officials and health experts warn, however, that it will likely take months, maybe even more than a year, to distribute enough doses for the U.S. and the rest of the world to suppress the virus.

"It's not enough to have a safe and effective vaccine, you then need to get it into the arms of people for this to work," Gounder said. "And the logistics of vaccinating 330 million Americans over the coming year or more is really a massive undertaking unlike anything people in this country have seen since the days of the polio vaccine."

— CNBC's Kevin Stankiewicz contributed to this report.

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