US President Joe Biden on Thursday promised 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in his first 100 days in office, doubling his initial goal, as he said at his first news conference that he intended to seek another term.
Biden also said the United States would likely miss a May 1 deadline set by former president Donald Trump to pull all troops from Afghanistan, although he made clear he expected to end America’s longest war within the year.
Delving into details and offering low-key answers, Biden cast a dramatically different character than his bombastic predecessor in his first formal encounter with reporters in the White House’s imposing East Room since he entered office on January 20.
Biden waited longer than any modern president to hold a news conference with his aides apparently worried that the free-wheeling 78-year-old politician — who joked that he entered the Senate “120 years ago” — would veer off a carefully crafted message.
But Biden appeared at ease and in command as he cast himself as a seasoned Washington operator who would tackle pressing problems starting with Covid-19, which has killed nearly 550,000 people in the United States.
“I’ve been hired to solve problems, not create division,” Biden said, pointing to passage of a $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill that sends money to most Americans.
“I’m a fairly practical guy. I want to get things done.”
Biden began his news conference by announcing that he planned to administer 200 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine in his first 100 days — the end of April.
“I know it’s ambitious, twice our original goal,” Biden said. “But no other country in the world has even come close — not even close — to what we are doing, and I believe we can do it.”
The United States under Biden has dramatically scaled up the distribution of vaccines — developed during Trump’s presidency — as well as economic support, bringing dividends as hospitalizations dip and new unemployment claims fall to their lowest level since the start of the pandemic.
– Hitting back on border –
Amid the successes against Covid-19, Trump’s Republican Party has united in denouncing Biden over a wave of Central American migrants heading to the southern border.
Biden pushed back on the narrative of Republicans and some media that there was a crisis as he voiced compassion for people from Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua who are fleeing violence and poverty.
“There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. It happens every year,” Biden said.
But officials say that the number of unaccompanied children has risen, with the Biden administration racing to set up more shelters to house the youngsters.
Biden made no apologies for not sending back children– a shift from Trump, who built his political career on strident denunciations of immigration and, in one of his most controversial moves, separated migrant children from parents.
“The idea that I’m going to say, which I would never do, if an unaccompanied child ends up at the border we’re going to let them starve to death and stay on the other side — no previous administration did that either, except Trump. I’m not going to do it.”
Biden has put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of the border situation, for the first time giving a specific portfolio to his number two who has constantly been at the side of America’s oldest ever president.