The National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will have key roles in President-elect Joe Biden’s plan to increase the numbers of Americans being vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Biden’s plan, released Friday, calls for the National Guard and FEMA to build vaccine clinics, according to CNBC.
He had said last fall that he planned to have the federal government foot the bill for National Guard deployments related to COVID-19.
“It costs a lot of money and governors need that paid for,” Biden said at the time, according to Politico.
“The fact is that this is a national emergency — that’s what FEMA is supposed to deal with. Our view is that should be done. When it comes to deploying the National Guard for COVID relief, that should be paid for.”
West Virginia, which has used about 90 percent of its supply of the first vaccine shot, showed how it can be done by letting the National Guard take the lead instead of government bureaucracies, CBS News reported.
“We have taken 10,000 square-feet of our National Guard headquarters and turned it into a command center with representatives from all levels of state government,” Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, who retired from the National Guard but stayed in place to manage the vaccination effort, told CBS.
“Young soldiers and airmen are out distributing the vaccine across the state. We run this just like a military convoy,” he said.
The president-elect has set a goal of 100 million vaccine doses given out in the first 100 days of his administration.
“Here’s the deal: The more people we vaccinate, the faster we do it, the sooner we can save lives and put this pandemic behind us and get back to our lives and loved ones,” Biden said Thursday, calling the Trump administration vaccination rollout plan a “failure.”
Biden did not offer much hope for the near future.
“We remain in a very dark winter,” Biden said. “Almost a year later we’re still far from back to normal. The honest truth is this: Things will get worse before they get better.”
What CNN described as a “Democratic state official” it did not name said that there might be a difference between what is planned and what is accomplished.
“A lot of that sounds very Pollyanna, because I hear the phrase ‘mass vaccination site,’ and I think to myself, OK, what operating system are they using to register all these people?” the official said. “It’s all very pie-in-the-sky.”
Biden’s plan also calls for the federal government to “quickly jumpstart” efforts to ensure the vaccines can be available at neighborhood pharmacies, according to CNBC.
Using drug store chains to vaccinate Americans had been in the plan for rolling out the vaccines, but the National Association of Chain Drug Stores is now begging for states to send them vaccine doses so they can deliver the shots.
As of Friday morning, about 31 million doses of vaccine had been distributed, but only a little over 12 million vaccinations had taken place, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
An example of what happens after vaccines go to the states has emerged in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio said the state is not getting New York City the doses it needs, NBC News reported.
“I’m telling you, at this rate, there will not be any doses available in New York by next week,” he said. “If we don’t get a serious supply, we’re going to have to freeze the appointment system. That would be insane after all the progress we’ve made.”
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