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UPDATE 3-Biden says Trump 'did not do his job' on coronavirus vaccination program, urges patience

Alexandra Alper
·3 min read

(Adds comment by former White House official)

By Alexandra Alper

BETHESDA, Md., Feb 11 (Reuters) - U.S. President Joe Bidenon Thursday said the coronavirus vaccination program heinherited from Donald Trump was in "much worse shape" than hehad expected, while urging patience and also announcing thegovernment has bought 200 million more doses.

"We're not going to have everything fixed for a while, butwe're going to fix it," Biden said in remarks at the NationalInstitutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

With demand for the vaccine far outstripping supply,Americans are struggling to get appointments for theirinoculations, leaving Biden with an acute problem less than amonth after taking over from Trump.

Biden said Trump, who spent his last two months in office ina futile effort to overturn the results of the Nov. 3presidential election that he lost, did not order enough vaccineand did not do enough to get people lined up to get vaccinated.

He said the vaccine program he inherited was in "much worseshape" than he had anticipated and that his transition team hadbeen misled about the vaccine supply.

"While scientists did their job in discovering vaccines inrecord time, my predecessor - I’ll be very blunt about it - didnot do his job in getting ready for the massive challenge ofvaccinating hundreds of millions," Biden said.

Brian Morgenstern, a former White House official involvedwith the coronavirus effort, said the Trump administration'sOperation Warp Speed program had prepared plans well in advance,aided by many career officials still serving in government.

"That is why the new Administration’s goals were beingsurpassed before they even came into office. Enough with thelies, excuses & political pot shots. Time to lead," he said.

Trump had expressed pride in the speed of the vaccinedevelopment on his watch.

Biden said the U.S. coronavirus death toll is likely toreach 500,000 next month. He urged Americans to wear masks toprevent the spread.

"We've now purchased enough vaccine to vaccinate allAmericans," Biden said.

He said the U.S. government has signed contracts for 100million doses of the Moderna vaccine and 100 millionmore from Pfizer to help reach the target.

"We appreciate the confidence that the U.S. government hasdemonstrated in our COVID-19 Vaccine," Moderna CEO StéphaneBancel said in a press release.

Pfizer spokeswoman Sharon Castillo confirmed that it andBioNTech had reached a deal with the U.S. government.

"We will deliver 100 million doses by the end of March, atotal of 200 million doses by the end of May, and the full 300million doses by the end of July," she said.

The new vaccine orders, in addition to 400 million dosespreviously contracted, would allow the United States tovaccinate a total of 300 million people by July 31 using dosesfrom the two vaccines authorized.

That would be enough to vaccinate most people in the 330million population who want it, given that the two vaccines arenot authorized for children and that many people have said theydon't want shots.

In addition, Johnson & Johnson's vaccine candidate is likelyto be authorized later this month, and the company expects tosupply 100 million doses of its single-shot vaccine to theUnited States by the middle of the year.

(Reporting by Alexandra Alper, additional reporting by SteveHolland, Andrea Shalal, Michael Erman and Peter Henderson;Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)