With the November election fewer than four months away and the number of coronavirus cases again surging in the United States, former vice president Joe Biden is preparing for a range of realities when it comes to dealing with the virus if he is elected president, according to an official.
"I would say the vice president and the team are working through multiple scenarios. One of those scenarios would involve the existence of a vaccine, in which case, one of the biggest tasks would be the broad-based manufacture and equitable distribution of that vaccine which is an enormous logistical challenge," the official said on a call Tuesday morning.
When asked if Biden’s Public Health advisery Board had advised the former vice president on the likelihood of a vaccine being widely available for distribution by the time he would potentially take office, the official cautioned there is no guarantee that will be the case.
"They've advised the vice president that you know there have been encouraging signs around some of the candidate vaccines but that nothing is a sure thing and that we can't count on that," the official said.
"So we have to make provision for there being a vaccine and do the heavy lifting of what it's going to take once it's identified to get it to everyone, and we also have to make provision for there not being a vaccine and to have to live in a world where we're still trying to get the pandemic under control," the official added.
The comment came in tandem with the release of Biden’s new plan to bolster the U.S. supply chain of critical goods needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, which his campaign says will "marshal all of the tools of the federal government" to procure the necessary supplies to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, distribute a potential vaccine for the virus and shift the production of relevant materials back to U.S. soil.
The plan reiterates many of the principles and priorities Biden has outlined in speeches and previous policies, including the more aggressive use of the Defense Production Act to manufacture Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for front-line workers.
If elected, Biden would implement a 100-day review immediately after being sworn into office "to identify critical national security risks across America’s international supply chains and will ask Congress to enact a mandatory quadrennial Critical Supply Chain Review to institute this process permanently," according to a fact sheet on the plan distributed by the campaign on Tuesday.
Biden’s plan would also use the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to make sure vaccine production is adequate and work to undo Trump administration tax incentives to encourage on-shore pharmaceutical production.
"The goal here is to have a combination of sufficient domestic production, plus sufficient stockpile, plus sufficient surge capacity. And how you allocate across those three will differ depending on the critical good. And that is fundamentally going to be determined by the outcome of that 100 day review," the official told reporters.
The plan includes specific language on working with allies across the globe as well, to better prepare supply chains and production of required equipment, reducing the reliance on countries like Russia and China.
"Just like the United States itself, no U.S. ally should be dependent on critical supplies from countries like China and Russia. That means developing new approaches on supply chain security — both individually and collectively — and updating trade rules to ensure we have strong understandings with our allies on how to best ensure supply chain security for all of us," Biden’s new plan states.
The new policy comes as the United States continues to contend with rising case numbers in over 35 states. Since the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in China in December, the United States has become the country worst-affected by the virus, with more than 2.9 million diagnosed cases and at least 130,430 deaths, according to the most recent count.