Trump administration passed on upping vaccine supply this summer, prompting shortage fears

Now Pfizer might not be able to deliver additional vaccine supplies to the US until next summer

Josh Marcus
San Francisco
Tuesday 08 December 2020 00:35
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Dr Fauci warns the Christmas season will make pandemic worse than ever

The Trump administration passed on an opportunity to buy more of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine over the summer, The New York Times reports, meaning the company may not be able to deliver additional doses beyond what’s already contracted until next summer due to commitments to other countries. 

In July, the US government agreed to a deal with Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech to buy an initial tranche of 100 million doses of the vaccine for $1.95 billion. The treatment requires two injections, so that’s enough to vaccinate 50 million Americans, only a fraction of the total population. The deal contained the option to buy more doses. 

“We are confident that we will have 100 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine as agreed to in our contract, and beyond that, we have five other vaccine candidates," a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told the Times. 

Federal heath authorities are meeting on 10 December to consider granting emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine in the US, which could arrive as soon as this weekend. Moderna, which has developed another leading vaccine candidate, has also applied for emergency use certification, and could begin distributing the treatment to priority patients like health workers and nursing home residents sometime this month. 

On Tuesday, Britain plans to start a mass vaccine drive with the Pfizer-BioNTech treatment, the first Western nation to do so. 

As promising preliminary data came on the top vaccine candidates, governments around the world raced to secure future doses. On 11 November, the EU announced a deal with Pfizer for 200 million doses and an optional 100 million more down the line. 

On Tuesday, the president is expected to sign an executive order “to ensure that United States government prioritizes getting the vaccine to American citizens before sending it to other nations,” according to a reported draft of the action. 

It’s unclear, however, what practically effects the order would have, and whether it will impact vaccine supplies. 

That same day, the president hoped to hold a “vaccine summit” with the CEOs of Pfizer and Moderna, who both reportedly declined. The president has claimed both companies worked against his presidential campaign because major news of their successful trials dropped shortly after he lost the election. A leaked memo showed that in October, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla fretted about how discussing the pandemic had become about politics and not science. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, warned CNN’s John Berman on Monday a vaccine wouldn’t immediately slow down the  skyrocketing case count in the US, which has killed more than 280,000 people.  

“It's likely you're not going to see a measurable diminution for at least several weeks or if not longer,' Mr Fauci said. “But it will come, I guarantee you,” he added.

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