Biden says coronavirus vaccine must be ‘freely available to everyone’

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Friday outlined his plan to address the coronavirus pandemic, including providing free vaccines to all Americans, as he began delivering his closing argument to voters.

“Once we have a safe and effective vaccine, it has to be free to everyone, whether or not you’re insured,” the Democratic presidential nominee said in a speech in Wilmington, Delaware. He said that if elected, he would direct the federal government to “bulk-purchase as many doses as necessary of the Covid-19 vaccine so we can provide it free to those who are uninsured, under-insured or Medicaid-eligible.”

Eleven days from Election Day, Biden homed in on his four main priorities to combat the pandemic. In addition to distributing a free vaccine, he said, he would ask governors to mandate masks in their states, put a national testing plan in place and increase the production and distribution of personal protective equipment. In each section of his speech, a screen behind him provided visuals to illustrate his argument. As he spoke about mandating masks, for example, pictures of people wearing masks appeared onscreen.

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Despite the speedy timeline that President Donald Trump has suggested, Biden cautioned it would still be “many months” before a vaccine is widely available to Americans. But if one does become ready for distribution, he said, the country needs a president who will ensure that it is given out “in a way that’s equitable and accountable.”

The former vice president, in laying out his plan to tackle the pandemic, criticized Trump for attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act during a global health crisis. Trump has vowed for years to overturn the ACA, also known as Obamacare, but has not offered a comprehensive plan that he would install in its place, despite teasing one several times. The Supreme Court is set to hear oral arguments on the future of the ACA next month.

“Under the ACA, insurers are required to cover recommended vaccines for free, so overturning the ACA would mean people have to pay to get a Covid-19 vaccine. That’s wrong. Very, very wrong,” Biden said.

In September, the federal government released plans detailing how it would distribute Covid-19 vaccines once they’ve been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. Operation Warp Speed aims to have Covid-19 vaccines moving to administration sites within 24 hours of an FDA license or emergency use authorization, and the goal is to make them free, CNN previously reported.

During the final presidential debate on Thursday, Biden said he would build on Obamacare by adding a public health insurance option. It would “become Bidencare,” the former vice president said. He said he wanted to add an option for people to buy into a Medicare-like program.

Echoing his other speeches on the campaign trail, Biden lambasted Trump for his administration’s mishandling of the response to the coronavirus pandemic, as the United States surpassed 223,000 deaths from the virus as of this week.

“We’re more than eight months into this crisis, and the President still doesn’t have a plan. He’s given up. He’s quit on you. He’s quit on your family. He’s quit on America,” Biden said. “He just wants us to grow numb and resign to the horrors of this death toll and the pain it’s causing so many Americans.”

Biden said Trump “can’t erase his own words or deeds.” He pointed to the reporting by journalist Bob Woodward that shows the President admitted he had known weeks before the first confirmed US coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous and repeatedly played it down publicly.

“Covid-19 dwarfs anything we’ve faced in recent history and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down,” Biden said. “The virus is surging in almost every state.”

In his speech, Biden echoed his attacks during the debate, in which he accused Trump of denying responsibility for the virus’ spread in the United States, and predicted that a “dark winter” is coming with more deaths.

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