Biden warns Congress must act or vaccine drive will 'slow and stall'

By: AFP      Published: 11:23 PM, 9 Dec, 2020
Biden warns Congress must act or vaccine drive will 'slow and stall'

President-elect Joe Biden warned on Tuesday that coronavirus vaccination efforts in the United States will "slow and stall" if Congress does not urgently come up with funding.

Biden, who takes office on January 20, pledged to lead the "the most efficient mass vaccination plan in US history," carrying out at least 100 million vaccinations in his first 100 days in office.

"There's a real chance that after an early round of vaccinations the effort will slow and stall," he told reporters. 

"We need Congress to finish the bipartisan work underway now or millions of Americans may wait months longer to get the vaccine."

Republicans and Democrats in Congress have been at odds over a Covid-19 relief package and while there is no clear deal in sight leaders want to have an agreement by the end of the week.

"My view, and I think it's a view shared by literally everybody on both sides of the aisle, is that we can't leave without doing a Covid bill," Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday. "The country needs it."

One sticking point between Republicans and Democrats has been coronavirus liability protections for businesses and McConnell proposed putting that aside for the moment.

"It remains my view that we ought to pass what we can agree on," he said.

According to CNN, Democratic Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer immediately rejected McConnell's proposal, saying he was "sabotaging good-faith bipartisan negotiations."

Introducing members of his health team, Biden said they were "crisis-tested" and would "spare not a single effort to get this pandemic under control."

"I'm absolutely convinced that in 100 days we can change the course of the disease and change life in America for the better," Biden said.

He said his priorities would be to "accelerate testing, fix our supply chain and distribute the vaccine."

Biden said he would rely on the advice of top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, who would tell him "what I need to know, not what I want to know."

The president-elect also said he would ask Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days he is in office and require them where he is legally allowed to do so such as in federal buildings and on planes, trains and buses.

"It's not a political statement, it's a patriotic act," Biden said of mask-wearing.