President Trump’s calamitous handling of the covid-19 response presents Mr. Biden with awful headaches. The virus is running rampant, and variants that are more contagious are certain to accelerate that. The Trump administration wisely purchased hundreds of millions of vaccine doses but then turned over the task of administering them to the states and localities, which are overstretched and underfunded. So far, 31 million doses have been distributed, but only 12 million shots given. The daily vaccination rate is climbing but needs to be much greater for Mr. Biden to meet his goal of 100 million inoculations in his first 100 days.
Mr. Biden’s proposed $20 billion vaccination program includes creation of community vaccination centers, possibly run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency with help from the National Guard, and mobile vaccination clinics for hard-to-reach areas. He has proposed to fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers to assist with vaccination and contact tracing, and later on work in local public health jobs. All this is logical, but how quickly can it be done? If Congress takes a month to act and more time is required to stand up new vaccination centers, the delays will be costly. The plan to boost staffing has merit, but where will these people come from? How long will it take to get the funds, hire workers and train them?
The pandemic is claiming about 4,000 American lives every day. Mr. Biden’s good ideas must be executed with the urgency of a fire brigade responding to a house in flames.
Mr. Biden also correctly proposes to scale up diagnostic testing, one of the notable disasters of the Trump presidency, as well as address vulnerable groups and populations, and remedy the persistent shortages of personal protective equipment. He would fund a national disease surveillance capacity that would allow monitoring of the evolving virus by whole genome sequencing, as is done in Britain. The pandemic has made it starkly clear that investing in virus early warning is every bit as important as ballistic missile early warning.
Another worry is vaccine supply. As The Post’s Carolyn Y. Johnson reports, there are risks in the coming months that not every manufacturing facility can be running perfectly at full speed 24 hours a day. The administration must be rigorous in monitoring the factories and helping industry avoid disruption and acquire raw materials.
As vaccination eligibility widens, tens of millions more people will be ready and eager to get the vaccine. Mr. Biden’s program recognizes the myriad difficulties. It will take a full-court press from Congress and a nascent administration to solve them.