U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff received their first doses of the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday, even as officials warned that the pace of inoculations in the country is moving slower than promised.
Harris pulled up the left sleeve of her black blouse at a community health care center in Washington and told a nurse, "OK, let's do it."
Harris, who is Black and Indian American, received the first of her two required shots at a facility that primarily serves African Americans, a televised reminder to minorities, who have been disproportionately hard hit by the coronavirus, to get vaccinated in the coming months.
Democratic President-elect Joe Biden, who will be inaugurated on January 20, received his first vaccination shot last week.
Biden has vowed to make the fight against the coronavirus the first mission of his presidency and is set to give the country an update on the pandemic later Tuesday. COVID-19 already has killed more than 335,000 Americans and infected 19.3 million, according to Johns Hopkins University.
An aide with his transition team said Biden will warn Americans that the number of infections and deaths are expected to increase in coming weeks, even as vaccinations are administered in increasing numbers.
"He will be truthful and straightforward with the American people about what lies ahead and will address the current administration falling short on its pace for vaccinations," the Biden aide said. "He will also lay out his plan to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible."
So far, the country's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that 2.1 million Americans have been inoculated, far short of the 20 million the outgoing Trump administration said would be vaccinated by December 31, the last day of 2020.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert and Biden's chief medical adviser, told CNN, "We certainly are not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December. We are below where we want to be."
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that with tens of thousands of new coronavirus cases being recorded in the United States every day, the disease "has just gotten out of control in many respects."
He said January's caseload could exceed that of December. "You just have to assume it's going to get worse," Fauci said, because millions of Americans traveled to visit relatives and friends over the Christmas and New Year's Day holidays, quite likely spreading the virus.
Fauci said Biden, by "showing leadership from the top," could make an impact in fighting the virus — a comment that appeared to be implicit criticism of outgoing President Donald Trump, who has often belittled the impact of the virus and said little publicly about it since losing reelection to Biden last month.
"What he's saying is that let's take at least 100 days and everybody, every single person put aside this nonsense of making masks be a political statement or not," Fauci said of Biden. "We know what works. We know social distancing works. We know avoiding congregant settings works. For goodness sakes, let's all do it, and you will see that curve will come down."
Biden has pledged to distribute 100 million vaccine shots in his first 100 days in office and said he wants to safely open as many schools as possible. He said he will sign an executive order requiring masks to be worn on federal property.
On Monday, Celine Gounder, a member of Biden's COVID-19 advisory board, said the incoming U.S. leader is also considering invoking the Defense Production Act to increase production of coronavirus vaccines.
Gounder told CNBC's "Squawk Box" show that Biden could use the wartime-production law "to make sure the personal protective equipment, the test capacity and the raw materials for the vaccines are produced in adequate supply."