Trump team admits to keeping Biden officials in dark over Covid vaccine plan

'Biden will likely want to improve the plan, but he can't do that effectively if he isn't read into ahead of time’

Chris Riotta
New York
Thursday 19 November 2020 20:46 GMT
Biden warns 'more people may die' if Trump refuses to co-operate on transition
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Lawmakers have expressed fury over President Donald Trump’s refusal to comply with President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team on coronavirus vaccine distribution efforts, saying the failure to cooperate could be “potentially catastrophic” for the country.

The Trump administration’s vaccine distribution team said it had not briefed anyone involved with the transition about its efforts during a conference call on Thursday, Senator Chris Murphy (D—CT) said in a statement, adding that they “have no plans to do so” despite calls from Mr Biden and others to comply with the process.

“First, there needs to be an integration between Trump's team and Biden's team to assure a clean hand-off of a complicated distribution plan,” the Democratic senator wrote in a tweet. “Second, Biden will likely want to improve the plan, but he can't do that effectively if he isn't read into ahead of time.”

The incoming Biden administration cannot adequately coordinate a federal response to the availability of Covid-19 vaccinations without formal approval from the General Services Administration.

Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of the president-elect’s Covid-19 transition panel, said the Trump administration’s failure to cooperate with incoming administration was a “major impediment to rolling out and scaling up the vaccine” in a statement.

“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,” the infectious disease specialist told CNBC’s Squawk on the Street.

Other members of the Biden transition team have said they were alarmed by the Trump administration’s refusal to work with them on distributing the vaccines, as more reports indicate experimental trials have been successful among major pharmaceutical companies. For example, Dr. Eric Goosby also told CNBC earlier this week he was “more and more concerned each day” about the apparent roadblocks to their efforts.

After speaking with business and labor leaders earlier this week, the president-elect urged Mr Trump and his officials to coordinate a federal response with their team in order to ensure the vaccine was quickly distributed across the country.

“If we have to wait until January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind, over a month and a half,” Mr Biden said at a press conference. “And so, it’s important that it be done, that there be coordination now.”

Mr Trump has yet to concede to Mr Biden despite mounting losses in the nation’s court system surrounding his challenges to the electoral process. To date, not a single court in the US has found any evidence of fraud to support the president’s claims.

With Mr Biden having won a resounding victory in the 2020 elections according to official projections, flipping key states the president needed to maintain power, the administration has been pressured to continue supporting Mr Trump’s allegations of fraud.

Meanwhile, Mr Biden’s transition team has sought access to daily intelligence briefings and other key materials — typically provided to any incoming administration by their predecessors — with little success. 

But perhaps above all, the incoming president has stressed the importance of working together with Mr Trump on coronavirus relief. 

Discussing the need for cooperation with Mr Trump’s vaccination team, Mr Biden said on Monday: “It’s going to take a while for the vaccine to be able to be available and distributed.”

“It’s important that people who are in the greatest need get it,” he added, while discussing whether he would get the vaccine. “I wouldn’t hesitate to get the vaccine, but I also want to set an example.”

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