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Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden After a Vaccine Briefing in Wilmington, Delaware

September 16, 2020

As prepared for delivery.

Good afternoon.

I just concluded an hour and a half long briefing with seven of our nation's top public health experts on the state of the pandemic, the steps needed to curb the spread of the virus, and the challenge of distributing a safe and effective vaccine once we have identified one.

Before I turn to those issues, let me say a few words about the president's comments last night.

Even after acknowledging to Bob Woodward on tape that he was fully informed on the gravity of the danger related to COVID-19. He refused to warn the American people. And again, last night, in a televised town hall, the President revealed in no uncertain terms the lack of seriousness with which he continues to take this pandemic.

Nearly eight months after this crisis on the doorstep of 200,000 American deaths, President Trump refused once again to take responsibility or to take action.

By his own admission he continued to lie about COVID-19. He doubled down on his catastrophic mistakes.

And, perhaps worst of all — he made clear that he still doesn't have a plan to bring us out of this crisis.

He even said that quote — "a lot of people think that masks are not good" — undercutting the easiest and most effective means we have for reducing the spread of this disease.

This virus is still taking nearly a thousand lives each day.

And forecasts show that the numbers are likely to climb this winter.

But, incredibly, President Trump insists that he wouldn't have done anything differently.

Not one thing.

Last Friday, we learned that another one thousand Americans died due to this virus.

On the very same day, Canada reported that not one person died of COVID-19.

And Trump wouldn't have done anything differently?

If you're a parent in America, preparing for another day that you can't send your child to school, if you're grieving the loss of a loved one, if your small business can't open or you can't go back to work because the virus is still spreading in your community, how does it make you feel to hear the President say he wouldn't have done anything differently?

And if he gets four more years, why should we expect anything to change?

All President Trump had to offer last night was the same weak and feckless inaction — the same lies and empty promises — that we've seen from the very beginning.

He still won't accept responsibility. He still won't offer a plan.

Last night, he repeated what he has said so many times before: That even if he continues to offer only failing indifference some day, the virus will go away like a miracle.

It won't go away like a miracle. The fact is, even if we get a vaccine, it will not be available to most of the population until well into next year.

And we are heading into a dangerous autumn.

In fact, the University of Washington model — which the White House has previously touted — projects that cases and deaths are going to spike in November – and an additional 215,000 Americans will die by the end of the year.

That's more than have already died.

We need leadership right now to prevent that from happening. That same University of Washington model shows that if there is universal masking, we could cut those deaths by more than half. We could save more than 100,000 lives.

Even Donald Trump's own director of the CDC told us that wearing a mask is the single most important step we can take to curb this virus. He said "I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take a COVID vaccine."

I spoke with the experts today about additional steps we can take to prevent needless deaths and suffering.

Uniform national guidance – and standards on social distancing – that can be applied to the particular circumstances of states and communities.

More effective approaches on testing and tracing.

If we do these things between now and January – we could save even more lives.

Last night, Donald Trump indicated he has no interest in doing these things.

A president's first responsibility is to protect the American people.

And he won't.

That is utterly disqualifying.

I also spoke with the experts about the paramount importance of preparing now for the swift, organized, and free distribution of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.

I am profoundly grateful to the scientists and researchers working tirelessly to ensure that

a safe and effective vaccine becomes a reality as soon as possible.

They carry the hopes of our entire nation and the entire world.

And when their work comes to fruition – and it will — they will no doubt save countless lives.

But scientific breakthroughs don't care about calendars any more than the virus does.

They certainly don't adhere to election cycles.

And their timing, their approval, and their distribution should never, ever be distorted by political considerations. They should be determined by science and safety alone.

A vaccine would offer a way back to normalcy and a path forward to better days for all of us.

It won't happen overnight. It will take months to distribute it to the entire population.

But I'm more hopeful than ever in the power of science to get us there.

One thing is certain, we cannot allow politics to interfere with a vaccine in any way.

Americans have had to endure President Trump's incompetence and dishonesty when it came to testing and personal protective equipment.

We cannot afford a repeat of those fiascos when it comes to a vaccine. The stakes are too high American families have already suffered and sacrificed far too much.

So let me be clear, I trust vaccines. I trust the scientists. But I don't trust Donald Trump — and the American people can't either.

Last week, Senator Harris and I laid out three questions this Administration must answer — to assure the American people that politics will play no role whatsoever in the vaccine process.

If Donald Trump can give honest answers to these questions — the American people should have the confidence and transparency they need to trust a vaccine and adopt it in numbers that make a difference.

First, what criteria will be used to ensure that a vaccine meets the scientific standard of safety and effectiveness?

Second, if the Administration greenlights a vaccine — who will validate that the decision was driven by science rather than politics?

Third, how can we be sure that the distribution of the vaccine will take place — safely, cost-free, and without a hint of favoritism?

The fact of the matter is developing a vaccine is only part of the battle.

Distributing a vaccine to the entire population is as complex and challenging as the most sensitive military operation.

I've been calling for an effective distribution plan for months.

If I am elected president, I will begin implementing an effective distribution plan from the minute I take office. That is what I discussed with the experts in the briefing today.

It will include: a detailed timeline for when people will get the vaccine, a clear delineation of priority populations, the specific means and mechanisms of shipping and storage at appropriate temperatures, the division of responsibility at every level of government.

And I will provide the leadership necessary to carry this plan out. I will level with the American people. I will take responsibility. I will support rather than tear down the experts responsible for day-to-day execution. I will follow the science.

With satisfactory answers to the three questions I laid out — every American— including me and my family — can have confidence in a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.

This isn't about politics. It's about saving lives.

It's about getting back to our loved ones and our friends.

It's about getting our economy back on its feet.

Getting back to the movie theater, to the restaurant, to the ballpark.

It's about getting back to our lives — and getting America up off the mat.

We can, and we must, be united in that pursuit.

No matter when that breakthrough emerges — no matter when that hope bears fruit.

That's America at our best.

Thank you.

God bless our scientists and researchers — and frontline workers.

And God protect our troops.

I'll stop and take your questions.

Joseph R. Biden, Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden After a Vaccine Briefing in Wilmington, Delaware Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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