Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will lay out on Wednesday how he plans if elected to develop and distribute a safe coronavirus vaccine, seeking to draw a contrast with President Donald Trump’s approach to combating the pandemic.
Biden will deliver remarks in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, after getting briefed by public health experts on the efforts to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
The speech is part of a delicate balancing act the former vice president has struck in recent weeks, as Trump has suggested a vaccine could be approved ahead of the Nov. 3 election.
Biden, who leads the Republican president in national opinion polls, has questioned whether Trump is pressuring agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to sign off on a vaccine to boost his re-election prospects. At the same time, Biden has been careful to say he wants to see a safe vaccine as soon as possible.
Last week, during a campaign visit to Michigan, Biden told reporters that he simply wanted “transparency” in the process and that he would love to have an inoculation “tomorrow.”
Trump has accused Biden of promoting vaccine fears for political purposes. Last week, he called on Biden to “apologize for the reckless anti-vaccine rhetoric.”
The coronavirus has caused about 195,000 U.S. deaths, the most of any country, and millions of job losses.
Inoculation experts have expressed concern that not enough Americans will volunteer to take an approved coronavirus vaccine, in part because of the speed with which it is being created. Most vaccinations are developed over a decade or more.
In a July Reuters/Ipsos poll, just over 60% of Americans said they were interested in taking a vaccine, around the threshold that experts say is likely to be necessary to halt the pandemic’s spread.
Trump’s penchant for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus may hurt his ability to assure Americans of its safety, the poll suggested. Only 15% of respondents said they would be more willing if Trump said the virus was safe. More than twice as many said a presidential endorsement would actually make them less interested in taking the vaccine.
Biden has sought for months to portray Trump’s response to the outbreak as a failure that has caused tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths. His argument was bolstered last week by the release of recorded interviews between Trump and journalist Bob Woodward, in which the president acknowledged deliberately downplaying the deadliness of the virus.
The Biden campaign said Trump’s handling of the pandemic proved he could not be trusted to oversee vaccine preparations.
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are pushing for an effective vaccine to be ready at light speed, and Donald Trump owes it to the American people not to further delay the end of this nightmare by encumbering the development or distribution of a vaccine with any more malpractice,” spokesman Andrew Bates said.
A Trump campaign spokesman rejected Biden’s suggestion that the president was undermining the process.
“The only people politicizing the COVID-19 vaccine are Joe Biden and the Democrats with their fearmongering and denial of science,” the spokesman, Ken Farnaso, said. “President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed is backed by the world’s greatest scientists and researchers at the FDA, so Americans can rest assured that a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon.”
The Biden campaign has assembled a growing group of experts to advise the candidate on vaccine preparations and distribution, including Vivek Murthy, a former U.S. surgeon general, and David Kessler, a former FDA commissioner.
A person familiar with Biden’s regular briefings said several participants had years of government experience as well as relationships with people still working in the government that help inform their guidance.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Peter Cooney)