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Biden warns 'more people may die' of virus if transition delayed

US President-elect Joe Biden expressed frustration Monday, November 17, over Donald Trump's refusal to cooperate on the White House transition process, saying "more people may die" of coronavirus without immediate coordination on fighting the surging pandemic.

Biden was declared winner of the November 3 election but Trump has not conceded, and his administration has so far failed to formally acknowledge the veteran Democrat as the president-elect.

That leaves Biden and his team unable to coordinate with government officials on crucial continuity of issues like national security, but also on emergencies like a distribution plan for COVID-19 vaccines to tens of millions of Americans. 

Biden was asked a press conference about the greatest threat from Trump's obstruction of a smooth transfer of power and said that "more people may die if we don't coordinate" on distributing vaccines as quickly as possible.

"If we have to wait until (inauguration day) January 20 to start that planning, it puts us behind for a month, a month and a half," Biden told reporters in his home town of Wilmington in Delaware.

"And so it's important that it be done, that there be coordination now."

Several experts including former Trump administration officials have warned that the outgoing president's refusal to cooperate on the transition while he challenges election results in court could have devastating consequences as the nation grapples with COVID-19 spikes.

The United States added one million new cases in less than a week, a dizzying rise to more than 11 million confirmed infections and 246,000 American deaths, a global high.

Trump health advisor Scott Atlas, who has no relevant experience or qualifications in public health or infectious disease, has urged people in Michigan to "rise up" against COVID-19 measures rather than engage in an all-hands-on-deck effort to defeat the pandemic.

"What the hell is the matter with these guys?" Biden said. "It's totally irresponsible."

His comments came as biotech firm Moderna announced that its experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective. 

Biden said he himself would take the vaccine, or another being developed by Pfizer, if experts like top immunologist Anthony Fauci declared them safe.

"I wouldn't hesitate to get the vaccine if, in fact, Dr Fauci and these two organizations – whether it's Moderna or Pfizer, who have been extremely responsible – conclude that it is safe and able to be done," Biden said. 

"The only reason people question the vaccine now is because of Donald Trump," added Biden, who turns 78 on Friday.

He stressed that it appeared the vaccines are "on a clear path" towards safe usage. "They appear to be ready for prime time, ready to be used, and if that continues along that road, I would take the vaccine." – Rappler.com