Trump administration officials passed when Pfizer offered in late summer to sell the U.S. government additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccine, according to people familiar with the matter. Now Pfizer may not be able to provide more of its vaccine to the United States until next June because of its commitments to other countries, they said.
As the administration scrambles to try to purchase more doses of the vaccine, President Donald Trump plans Tuesday 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 draft statement and a White House official, though it was not immediately clear what force the president’s executive order would carry.
That included whether it would expand the U.S. supply of doses beyond what is spelled out in existing federal contracts.
The vaccine being produced by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, is a two-dose treatment, meaning that 100 million doses is enough to vaccinate only 50 million Americans. The vaccine is expected to receive authorization for emergency use in the U.S. as soon as this weekend, with another vaccine, developed by Moderna, also likely to be approved for emergency use soon.
Britain plans to begin a vaccination drive Tuesday using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, making it the first Western nation to start mass vaccinations.
On Nov. 11 — two days after Pfizer first announced early results indicating that its vaccine was more than 90% effective — the European Union announced that it had finalized a supply deal with Pfizer and BioNTech for 200 million doses, a deal they began negotiating in months earlier. Shipments could begin by the end of the year, and the contract includes an option for 100 million more doses.
Asked if the Trump administration had missed a crucial chance over the summer to snap up more doses for Americans, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said, “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.”
In a statement, Pfizer said that “any additional doses beyond the 100 million are subject to a separate and mutually acceptable agreement,” and that “the company is not able to comment on any confidential discussions that may be taking place with the U.S. government.”
The decision to issue the executive order was reported earlier by Fox News.