Biden criticises Trump over slow Covid-19 vaccine rollout

US president-elect warns it could take years before most Americans receive the necessary shots

WASHINGTON: President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday criticised President Donald Trump's promised swift coronavirus vaccine roll-out, saying it has fallen behind expectations, and warned it could take years before most Americans receive the necessary shots.

Mr Biden, speaking in Wilmington, Delaware, said some two million people have been vaccinated, well short of the 20 million Mr Trump had promised by the end of the year.

At the current rate, "it's going to take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people", Mr Biden said.

"As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should," the Democrat added.

Mr Biden's goal of ensuring 100 million shots are administered by the end of his 100th day in office would mean "ramping up five to six times the current pace to one million shots a day," he added, noting that it would require Congress to approve additional funding.

"Even with that improvement, even if we boost the speed of vaccinations to one million shots a day, it will still take months to have the majority of the United States' population vaccinated," he said.

Earlier in the day, Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris received a Covid-19 vaccination live on television in a bid to boost confidence in the inoculation.

Meanwhile, a representative-elect from Louisiana died of Covid-19 on Tuesday, the first member of Congress to succumb to the disease.

Republican Luke Letlow, 41, had been elected to Louisiana's 5th district and was due to be sworn in on Sunday.

"It is with heavy hearts that @FirstLadyOfLA and I offer our condolences to Congressman-elect Luke Letlow's family on his passing after a battle with Covid-19," Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards tweeted.

In a separate development, US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday put off a vote on President Donald Trump's call to boost Covid-19 relief checks, in a rare challenge to his fellow Republican.

Mr McConnell acted shortly after Mr Trump assailed Republican leaders on Twitter, calling them "weak" and "tired" in an apparent effort to get the Senate to increase Covid-19 relief checks to US$2,000 (S$2,650) from US$600. - REUTERS, AFP