President-elect Joe Biden has criticised the Trump administration for the pace of distributing Covid-19 vaccines and predicted that "things will get worse before they get better" when it comes to the pandemic.
"We need to be honest — the next few weeks and months are going to be very tough, very tough for our nation. Maybe the toughest during this entire pandemic," Biden said during remarks in Wilmington, Delaware.
His comments come as the coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 336,000 Americans, with experts warning holiday travel and gatherings could precipitate yet another spike in virus cases.
The US has also reported its first case of the mutant strain that sent parts of the United Kingdom into "tier 4" lockdown earlier this month. The new strain is said to be 70 per cent more transmissible.
Biden encouraged Americans to "steel our spines" for challenges to come and predicted that "things are going to get worse before they get better".
He also went after the Trump administration over its vaccination efforts, warning that the project, dubbed Operation Warp Speed, is moving at a slower pace than needed.
"As I long feared and warned, the effort to distribute and administer the vaccine is not progressing as it should," he said.
Earlier this month, Trump administration officials said they planned to have 20 million doses of the vaccine distributed by the end of the year. But according to data provided by the Centres for Disease Control, just over 11.4 million doses have been distributed and only 2.1 million people have received their first dose.
At the current pace, Biden said: "It's gonna take years, not months, to vaccinate the American people."
President Donald Trump deflected Biden's critique, saying vaccine distribution was a responsibility for individual states.
Biden, who takes office January 20, said he has directed his team to prepare a "much more aggressive effort, with more federal involvement and leadership, to get things back on track".
The President-elect said he would "move heaven and earth to get us going in the right direction".
He set a goal of administering 100 million shots of the vaccine within his first 100 days in office, but said to accomplish that, the pace of vaccinations would have to increase five to six times to one million shots a day.
Even with that pace, however, Biden acknowledged it "will still take months to have the majority of Americans vaccinated".
Biden acknowledged one of his challenges will be public scepticism over the safety of a vaccine, and has already been working to alleviate public concerns, firstly by receiving his first dose of the vaccine on live television last week.
"Turning this around is going to take time," Biden warned.
"We might not see improvement until we're well into March, as it will take time for our Covid response plan to produce visible progress."