Joe Biden has warned “more people may die” if Donald Trump continues to delay beginning the transition process to the new Democratic administration.
Speaking on Monday at a press conference about the US economy, the president-elect expressed frustration at Mr Trump’s ongoing refusal to concede the election, which the Republican claims was “rigged”.
The US President has vowed to exhaust his legal options in a desperate bid to overturn results in key swing states where the Democrat narrowly won, before the electoral college meets on December 14 to formally vote on the results.
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That has left the former vice president and his team unable to co-ordinate with government officials on national security issues as well as on the COVID-19 response, including a distribution plan of the recently announced vaccines to tens of millions of Americans.
In a markedly friendly question-and-answer session in his home town of Wilmington, Delaware, one journalist asked Mr Biden what he saw as “the biggest threat to your transition right now given Trump’s unprecedented attempt to obstruct and delay a smooth transfer of power”.
“More people may die if we don’t co-ordinate,” Mr Biden said.
“The vaccine is important; it’s of little use until you’re vaccinated. So how do we get the vaccine, how do we get over 300 million Americans vaccinated? What’s the game plan? It’s a huge, huge, huge undertaking, to get it done, prioritise those greatest in need, working our way through it.”
He added that he would “co-operate with the World Health Organisation and the rest of the world in dealing with this”.
Mr Biden said if his team had to “wait until January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind, over a month, month-and-a-half”.
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“And so it’s important that it be done, that there be co-ordination now – now or as rapidly as we can get that done,” he said.
Several experts, including former Trump administration officials, have warned that the President’s refusal to co-operate on the transition while he challenges election results in court could have devastating consequences as the nation grapples with COVID-19 spikes.
The US added one million new cases in less than a week, a dizzying rise to more than 11 million confirmed infections and 246,000 American deaths. It’s a global high, although mortality rates are well down from their peak.
Trump health adviser Scott Atlas, a radiologist who has no relevant experience or qualifications in public health or infectious disease, has urged people in Michigan to “rise up” against three weeks of new virus restrictions in the state which includes closing colleges, high schools, workplaces and in-person dining.
He tweeted on Sunday: “The only way this stops is if people rise up. You get what you accept. #FreedomMatters #StepUp.”
Mr Biden said: “What the hell is the matter with these guys?
“It’s totally irresponsible.”
His comments came as biotech firm Moderna announced that its experimental vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective.
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Mr Biden said he himself would take the vaccine, or another being developed by Pfizer, if experts like top immunologist Anthony Fauci declared them safe.
“I wouldn’t hesitate to get the vaccine if, in fact, Dr Fauci and these two organisations – whether it’s Moderna or Pfizer, who have been extremely responsible – conclude that it is safe and able to be done,” Mr Biden said.
“The only reason people question the vaccine now is because of Donald Trump,” said Mr Biden, who turns 78 on Friday.
He stressed that it appeared the vaccines are “on a clear path” towards safe usage. “They appear to be ready for prime time, ready to be used, and if that continues along that road, I would take the vaccine,” he said.
“If Dr Fauci, the doctors, tell us that we should take it, I’ll be the first in line to take it,” she said. “But if Donald Trump tells us we should take it, I’m not going to take it.”
– with AFP