Officials from President Donald Trump’s vaccine distribution effort have not briefed anyone on President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team, and have no plans to do so, Democratic U.S. senators said after a White House call on Thursday.
“Just off a conference call with Trump Administration vaccine distribution team,” Senator Chris Murphy said on Twitter. “They confirmed that they have not briefed anyone on President-elect Biden’s team and have no plans to do so. This is potentially catastrophic.”
In a news conference Thursday afternoon, Joe Biden, whose apparent victory in the Nov. 3 election is being disputed by the Trump campaign, called it “totally irresponsible” of the Trump team not to share data at a critical juncture in the war on the coronavirus. The virus is spiking across the country, with the death toll in the U.S. now exceeding 250,000, even as multiple drugmakers are prepping to roll out vaccines to help arrest its spread.
“It sends a horrible message about who we are,” Biden said.
The earlier conference call for senators was conducted on Thursday morning by General Gustave Perna and Dr. Moncef Slaoui, leaders of “Operation Warp Speed,” the administration’s vaccine-development effort, congressional aides said.
The team’s unwillingness to share its plans with the incoming administration “risks President-elect Biden’s team not being ready on day one to implement the plan or make adjustments to it,” Murphy said in an emailed statement.
Asked for comment, White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern did not address whether Biden’s team would be briefed, saying vaccine distribution plans from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state governors were publicly available.
“Manufacturing is well underway, and Dr. Slaoui confirmed that 20 million Americans are on track for vaccinations in December with tens of millions per month thereafter,” Morgenstern said.
Biden’s transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris met with Democratic and Republican governors on Thursday to discuss the health crisis.
A wave of coronavirus infection has gripped the United States and the death toll surpassed 250,000 this week. A vaccine may be available in the coming months, but distributing it to over 300 million Americans might be complicated by special storage and transport conditions.
Biden said on Wednesday that a range of information had not been made available to his campaign, including the distribution plan for COVID-19 vaccines. His administration is scheduled to take office on Jan. 20, when he is inaugurated.
Failure to promptly share critical COVID-19 data with Biden’s team will cause needless, deadly delays in tackling the pandemic, leaders of the U.S. medical establishment said in a letter to Trump on Tuesday.
Emily Murphy, administrator of the General Services Administration, a generally little-known agency that keeps the U.S. government running, has so far refused to “ascertain” the winner of the Nov. 3 presidential election between Biden and Trump, a condition for releasing funds and resources to the winner.
Trump has refused to concede, and his legal challenges are continuing. Biden, for his part, said he was not ruling out legal challenges of his own to ensure a transition of power.
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