Biden's national COVID-19 vaccination plan includes deploying FEMA, National Guard

Biden's national COVID-19 vaccination plan includes deploying FEMA, National Guard

January 19, 2021

President-elect Joe Biden on January 15 said he would deploy the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the National Guard to help set up COVID-19 vaccine clinics across the U.S. as part of an ambitious plan to get shots to millions of Americans.

Reminding the public that help is soon on the way in a speech from Wilmington, Delaware, Biden outlined a five-part plan to turn “frustration to motivation” that will get the U.S. out of the pandemic.

Under the plan, the White House would enlist the support of FEMA and the National Guard to set up thousands of community vaccination sites to help states vaccinate more people. To support states, Biden said the federal government would fully reimburse states for their use of the National Guard.

Also, under the plan, Biden would jump-start efforts to make vaccinations available in all pharmacies across the country and would launch mobile vaccination clinics designed to specifically reach underserved urban and rural areas.

"As we build them, we will make sure it’s done equitably. We’ll make sure there are vaccination centers in communities hit hardest by the pandemic, in Black and Latino communities, and rural communities as well," he said Friday.

The plan would also launch new ways of getting shots to high-risk people, like homeless people, incarcerated people and residents of institutions that serve developmentally and intellectually disabled people.

In addition, Biden vowed to use the Defense Production Act to help ramp up the supply of various vaccines.

“We didn’t get into all of this overnight; we won't get out of it overnight either,” Biden said while unveiling the plan. "But we will get through it. I am convinced we can get it done. And this is the time to set big goals and to pursue them with courage and conviction because the health of the nation is at stake."

Biden has said his goal is for 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to be administered within the first 100 days of his presidency, which would end in April. Biden's plan also proposes mobilizing more medical staff to help administer vaccines, including retired healthcare workers.

The plan, while relying in part on federal resources, ultimately gives more power to states to accelerate their vaccine disbursement as quickly as they can.

"We’ll fix the problem by encouraging states to allow more people to get vaccinated beyond health care workers and move through these groups as quickly as states think they can. That includes anyone 65 and older," Biden said.

Health experts and government officials at the state and local levels have said that the Trump administration bungled the distribution of the vaccines — Biden said Friday that "the vaccine rollout in the United States has been a dismal failure so far" — and never had a strategy. As of Thursday, more than 30 million vaccination doses distributed nationwide, but just over 11 million people had received their first doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the last week, Trump administration officials finally began giving Biden's team access to critical COVID-19 vaccination data. After weeks of requests to attend Operation Warp Speed vaccine briefings, last week Trump officials finally allowed Biden's representatives to attend, according to a person familiar with the plans. And as of January 14, the Biden transition team had not yet obtained access to the Defense Department’s vaccination plans for the military, the source said.

The death toll from the pandemic and case count continues to climb. For several days in a row this week, it exceeded 4,000 deaths. According to NBC News' COVID-19 data tracker, more than 390,000 people have died from the disease, and there have been more than 23 million cases.

Later in his speech, Biden blasted House Republicans for failing to wear a mask during the Capitol insurrection, resulting in four Democrats testing positive.

“What the hell is the matter with them? It's time to grow up,” he said. “For God's sake, wear a mask if not for yourself, for your loved ones, for your country.”

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