Biden Packs Primetime Speech with Attempts to Take Credit for Vaccine Rollout, Despite Relying on Trump's System
On Thursday night, President Joe Biden claimed sole credit for vaccinating Americans against the coronavirus in his address to the nation on the anniversary of the pandemic.
The vaccines were developed through “Operation Warp Speed,” an ambitious effort announced by then-President Donald Trump last May to produce a vaccine by the end of 2020.
While many “experts” doubted that was possible, more than 13.5 million Americans had been vaccinated before Trump left the White House.
Although no one denies there has been an increase in vaccinations during Biden’s 50 days in office, The Washington Post noted that “Biden vaccine victories build on Trump team’s work,” while ABC News wrote that “Biden leans heavily on Trump’s ‘Warp Speed’ but won’t give credit.”
In his speech, Biden portrayed himself as coming to the rescue of a nation that was unready to vaccinate its citizens.
“Two months ago, the country — this country didn’t have nearly enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all or near all of the American public. But soon we will,” the president said.
“We’ve been working with the vaccine manufacturers — Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson — to manufacture and purchase hundreds of millions of doses of these three safe, effective vaccines,” he said. “And now, at the direction and with the assistance of my administration, Johnson & Johnson is working together with a competitor, Merck, to speed up and increase the capacity to manufacture new Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is one shot.”
But The Post said that deal “was first conceived by Trump officials last year, culminating in a Jan. 4 conference call arranged between Merck and Johnson & Johnson’s senior leaders.”
“Biden can take credit for finishing the deal, that’s for sure. But it wasn’t an original idea he had,” Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at the Department of Health and Human Services under Trump, told The Post. “But it wasn’t an original idea he had.”
“We’re delighted that more Americans are getting the vaccine,” Mango told ABC News. “We just don’t understand why they [the Biden administration] have to celebrate it by trashing what we did.”
The Post summed up the vaccine rollout by saying that the facts “undercut the notion that Biden started from scratch on efforts to distribute and administer vaccines, which has been central to his administration’s messaging, and show instead that he has accelerated efforts by scientists and pharmaceutical companies, as well as by career health and military officials, some of whom are still laboring inside his government.”
Biden gave himself a televised pat on the back Thursday night.
“When I came into office, you may recall, I set a goal that many of you said was, kind of, way over the top. I said I intended to get 100 million shots in people’s arms in my first 100 days in office. Tonight, I can say we are not only going to meet that goal, we’re going to beat that goal. Because we’re actually on track to reach this goal of 100 million shots in arms on my 60th day in office,” he said.
The Post’s fact-checker has noted that by the time the Trump administration left office, vaccinations were nearing 1 million a day.
Moncef Slaoui, a Democrat who played a lead role in Trump’s Operation Warp Speed initiative, told The Post he was surprised at the way Biden has played the blame game.
“Honestly, I find that unwarranted, unwise and un-understandable,” said Slaoui, who resigned after the new administration wanted him out. “I’m amazed that people felt the need to belittle the work that was done.”
For example, Jeff Zients, coordinator of Biden’s COVID-19 task force, claimed in an interview with CBS News that there “really was no plan to ramp up the supply of those vaccines.”
But ABC News noted that “it was always expected that Pfizer and Moderna would ramp up their supply throughout the year.”
“Also, Biden’s playbook for vaccine distribution has relied heavily on a system created by the Trump administration, including federal partnerships with state officials and agreements with local pharmacies. In fact, the federal pharmacy program created by Trump aides is what Biden relied on last week to expand eligibility to teachers,” it reported.
“Of course we had a plan, and of course we executed on that plan, and that’s why we are where we are,” Adm. Brett Giroir, the COVID-19 testing coordinator and assistant secretary for health under Trump, told ABC News.
Biden threw out a raft of numbers to support his claim that he deserves the credit for vaccinating Americans.
“When I took office 50 days ago, only 8 percent of Americans after months — only 8 percent of those over the age of 65 had gotten their first vaccination. Today, that number is [nearly] 65 percent. Just 14 percent of Americans over the age 75, 50 days ago, had gotten their first shot. Today, that number is well over 70 percent,” the president said.
However, emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine was only granted on Dec. 11. The Moderna vaccine was authorized for use on Dec. 18. That means the Trump administration had roughly a month to launch the vaccine program.
The scale of the work accomplished by the Trump administration was noted by Biden adviser Andy Slavitt on Thursday, even if not noted by the president.
“The Trump administration made sure that we got — in record time — vaccine up and out. That’s a great thing and it is something we should all be excited about,” Slavitt said.
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