US

Psaki defends Harris ‘starting from scratch’ COVID remarks

WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Wednesday doubled-down on Vice President Kamala Harris’ disputed claim that the new administration was “starting from scratch” to develop a ​national ​vaccine distribution plan.

Harris on Sunday claimed the Trump White House had left the new Biden administration with “no national strategy or plan for vaccinations” — a claim that was debunked by Dr. Anthony Fauci, Biden’s chief medical adviser, weeks earlier.

“Is that the best message to say that this administration started from scratch when there were indeed doses going out the door?” asked one reporter at Psaki’s Wednesday White House briefing.

“I don’t think most governors or most of the American people would tell you that they think it was handled effectively and efficiently by the prior administration, given we are where we are,” Psaki responded.

Biden’s spokeswoman acknowledged that there were 900,000 doses being administered each day under the Trump administration, but claimed there was no comprehensive plan or coordination with state leaders.

“It was important for the vice president to convey that because the American people need to know what we’re digging out of and that was why she said it,” Psaki said.

But at a Jan. 21 White House briefing, Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the Biden team was building on the previous administration’s efforts.

​”W​e certainly are not starting from scratch because there is activity going on in the distribution,” Fauci said.​

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. February 17, 2021.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki holds the daily briefing at the White House on February 17, 2021.
REUTERS/Leah Millis

Under former President Donald Trump, vaccination distribution was rapidly increasing and on the day Biden was sworn into office, hit an all-time high of 1.6 million doses.

On Wednesday, Psaki said the daily distribution for shots in the first week of February was 1.7 million.

The Biden White House was repeatedly forced to defend its target of inoculating 100 million Americans in their first 100 days, or 1 million jabs per day, when reporters noted that their target had already been hit by Trump.

The new president unveiled a broad plan to get jabs in the arms of the American people, employing FEMA and the National Guard to increase the nation’s vaccination rate in what he described as a “war time effort.”

56.2 million doses had been administered by Wednesday afternoon, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination tracker.

Biden said Friday that most Americans will have received the first jab of the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of summer.


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