United States Vice-President Mike Pence says America has “never been more prepared to combat” COVID-19, despite a surge in cases

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United States Vice-President Mike Pence says America has “never been more prepared to combat” COVID-19, despite a surge in cases, hospitalisations and more than 250,000 deaths.

Key points:

  • Mike Pence told the briefing that one or more vaccines would be available soon
  • President-elect Joe Biden said his team had not been briefed on vaccine distribution plans, despite him assuming office in two months
  • Mr Biden has called President Donald Trump’s refusal to concede an act of “incredible irresponsibility”

It comes as president-elect Joe Biden said President Donald Trump was hindering the flow of information about programs to develop a vitally important coronavirus vaccine.

Mr Pence spoke in the White House briefing room, his first appearance at the White House podium in many weeks as the head of the administration’s coronavirus task force.

He said despite the recent nationwide surge in cases, America “has never been more prepared to combat this virus than we are today”.

“We have every confidence that in a short period of time, we could have one or more safe and effective vaccines for the American people,” Mr Pence said.

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.

Mr Trump has been silent on the recent spread of the virus after falsely saying during the campaign that “we are rounding the turn” and that the virus would be little discussed after the November 3 election.

Trump’s vaccine team has ‘no plans’ to brief Biden team

Joe Biden speaks behind a lectern holding a surgical mask.

President-elect Joe Biden says a range of information had not been made available to his campaign.(AP: Andrew Harnik)

The hour-long White House briefing made no mention of the incoming administration or Mr Trump’s refusal to coordinate with Mr Biden on plans to distribute upcoming vaccines.

“Unfortunately, my administration hasn’t been able to get everything we need,” Mr Biden said during a video conference with Republican and Democratic governors held the same day as the White House briefing.

How fast is coronavirus growing in the US?

Values shown are 7-day averages.

Mr Biden specifically cited Operation Warp Speed, the government’s partnership with private pharmaceutical companies to develop a COVID-19 vaccine.

“We haven’t been able to get into Operation Warp Speed, but we will take what we learned today and build it into our plan,” Mr Biden said.

His remarks highlighted the stakes of the Trump administration’s refusal to begin a formal transfer of power, an outlook that a US Democratic senator has called “potentially catastrophic”.

Senator Chris Murphy said officials from Trump’s vaccine distribution effort have not briefed anyone on Mr Biden’s transition team.

“Just off a conference call with Trump Administration vaccine distribution team,” Mr 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.”

Asked for comment, White House spokesman Brian Morgenstern did not address whether Mr Biden’s team would be briefed, saying vaccine distribution plans from the Centers for Disease Control and state governors were publicly available.

AP/Reuters

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