Still, getting those vaccines into arms has gotten off to a slower start than federal officials had hoped.
“We certainly are not at the numbers that we wanted to be at the end of December,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said on CNN on Tuesday. But he added, “I believe that as we get into January, we are going to see an increase in the momentum.”
Moncef Slaoui, the scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, said as recently as last week that the odds were high that the first 100 million people in the United States would be immunized by the end of March.
Michael Pratt, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, defended the pace of the vaccine rollout. He said in a statement that it was “a testament to the success of Operation Warp Speed” that 20 million doses had already been made available to states and other jurisdictions. (Not all of the doses have been shipped.) And Mr. Trump said in a tweet that it was “up to the States to distribute the vaccines once brought to the designated areas by the Federal Government.”
The pace of inoculation in the United States is expected to pick up in the first months of next year as more vaccine supply becomes available and more facilities begin giving it out to a wider selection of Americans. So far, vaccines have been given primarily to health care workers at hospitals and to residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Biden said he could “see a return to normalcy in the next year,” but he also offered an ominous forecast for the near future. The next few months could be “the toughest during this entire pandemic,” he said, adding, “I know it’s hard to hear, but it’s the truth.”
“We need to steel our spines for what’s ahead,” he said.
He expressed hope that Mr. Trump, who has resisted wearing a mask and mocked Mr. Biden during the campaign for wearing one, could still influence the public in a positive way.