Comparing Donald Trump and Joe Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccine Plans
As the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic passes, many Americans wonder when things will return to normal. While other countries, such as New Zealand and China, have controlled the virus’s spread and are back to business as usual, COVID-19 cases continue to plateau or surge across the United States.
Vaccinating all Americans is a crucial step on the road to recovery and return to pre-pandemic life. Under President Joe Biden, the current administration has taken a more proactive approach to implement a vaccine plan than his predecessor, Donald Trump, who took a more relaxed vaccine distribution approach.
The first effective COVID-19 vaccine, developed and manufactured by Pfizer and BioNtech, was given Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on December 11, 2020. The FDA issued a EUA for the Moderna vaccine a week later. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots from full immunity, with the Pfizer shots being 21 days apart and the Moderna shots being 28 days apart.
Towards the end of January 2021, Johnson & Johnson announced that it has developed and tested a single-shot COVID vaccine. Although the vaccine is only around 66% effective — compared to 95% and 94.1% for Pfizer and Moderna, respectively — this is around the same level of effectiveness as other vaccines, such as the flu shot.
In December 2020, in the final weeks of the Trump administration, The New York Times broke the news that the Trump administration passed when Pfizer had offered them the chance to purchase additional vaccine doses for the US several months earlier. Other countries ended up purchasing vaccine doses first, as the Trump administration scrambled to secure additional shots for Americans. This refusal came despite the fact that Pfizer had warned the government that the demand for doses may vastly exceed the supply and that it was crucial for the government to pre-order additional doses.
Shortly after Joe Biden took office, his Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, claimed that the Trump administration had no vaccine distribution plan during his last month in office as the virus raged across the country. “The process to distribute the vaccine, particularly outside of nursing homes and hospitals out into the community as a whole, did not really exist when we came into the White House,” Klain said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Before leaving office, the Trump administration had a goal of vaccinating 20 million Americans by the end of 2020, but this was not met. In contrast, Biden immediately started signing executive orders to ramp up vaccine distribution. In addition, the Biden administration pledged to deploy thousands of clinical staff from federal agencies and medical personnel from the military and pharmacies to increase vaccinations.
On Tuesday, February 16th, Joe Biden participated in his first town hall as president. This event further demonstrated key differences between Trump and Biden’s policy approaches to the COVID-19 vaccine and their anticipated vaccination timeline. Less than five minutes into the town hall, Biden provided a clear, hard deadline on vaccinating all Americans. He said that "by the end of July, we'll have over 600 million doses, enough to vaccinate every single American."
In the first week of March, Biden accelerated this timeline, and announced that the U.S. will have enough vaccines for every eligible adult by the end of May. He also added that he would urge states to prioritize teachers in their vaccination plans to allow for phase reopening of schools. This is a stark contrast to Trump’s lack of a specific timeline for completing vaccine distribution across the country. Although Biden had previously stated that all Americans would be vaccinated by the “spring,” Biden blamed the pushback in the timeline on the fact that Trump “wasted so much time” in dealing with the pandemic.
Biden also stated that things would most likely be back to normal across the US by next Christmas, given this vaccine timeline, as opposed to Trump, who rushed to reopen the economy without first implementing a comprehensive testing or vaccination plan to prevent a surge in cases. In addition, Biden has made a push as president to distribute the available vaccine doses, breaking away from the Trump administration’s policy of holding onto reserve doses to make sure there are enough second shots and to account for potential manufacturing issues.
Biden has taken a more careful, measured approach to vaccine distribution compared to his predecessor and has provided a clearer timeline for vaccinating all Americans. In contrast, Trump did not take vaccine distribution seriously and left the Biden administration with serious delays and setbacks as a result. People are experiencing pandemic fatigue, and having the Biden administration communicate a specific timeline can help people understand when to expect a return to normalcy.