Pfizer Can't Supply Additional Vaccines to US Until June

Carolyn Crist

December 09, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Pfizer won't be able to provide more COVID-19 vaccine doses to the United States until late June or July because other countries have bought up the available supply, according to The Washington Post.

The US government signed a deal with the giant pharmaceutical company earlier this year to provide 100 million doses for $1.95 billion -- enough for 50 million Americans to receive the two-dose vaccine. At that time, Pfizer officials encouraged Operation Warp Speed officials to purchase an additional 100 million doses, The New York Times first reported Monday, but the federal officials declined.

Since then, other countries have signed vaccine deals with Pfizer, so the US may not be able to receive a second major allotment until the summer of 2021, The Washington Post reported. Without a substantial number of additional doses, the U.S. may not be able to follow its schedule of vaccinating the majority of Americans against COVID-19 by April or May.

However, Trump administration officials told the newspaper that there won't be issues, citing other vaccine companies such as Moderna.

"I'm not concerned about our ability to buy vaccines to offer to all of the American public," Gen. Paul Ostrowski, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed, told The Washington Post.

"It's clear that Pfizer made plans with other countries. Many have been announced. We understand those pieces," he said.

With Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine on the verge of FDA approval, federal officials contacted the company last weekend to buy another 100 million doses, but the company said its current supply is already committed, the newspaper reported.

The vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech is expected to win emergency approval within days and has been shown to be effective against COVID-19.

Pfizer added that it may be able to provide 50 million doses at the end of the second quarter and another 50 million doses during the third quarter. However, the company can't offer anything "substantial" until next summer.

Beyond the initial 100 million doses that the US has already secured, Pfizer and federal officials would need to negotiate a new, "separate and mutually acceptable agreement," Amy Rose, a spokeswoman for Pfizer, told the newspaper.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump was expected to sign an executive order prioritizing vaccination for Americans first before providing doses to other countries, according to Fox News.

The order will provide guidelines to the Department of Health and Human Services, the US Agency for International Development and the US International Development Finance Corporation for foreign assistance with vaccines, the news outlet reported.

It's unclear whether the executive order is related to the Pfizer issue, whether the president can prevent a private company from fulfilling contracts with other countries, and whether President-elect Joe Biden will create his own policy, according to CNBC. The order may prove to be mostly symbolic.

The FDA could issue an emergency use authorization for Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine this week and will likely approve Moderna's vaccine next week. The US has signed a contract with Moderna for 100 million doses.

During a call with reporters on Monday, 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, including 100 million doses on the way from Moderna."

Federal officials are counting on vaccine candidates from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson to seek FDA approval in January and be ready for shipment in February.

"We could have all of them," Moncef Slaoui, the chief science adviser for Operation Warp Speed, told The Washington Post on Monday.

"And for this reason, we feel confident we could cover the needs without a specific cliff," he said. "We have planned things in such a way as we would indeed avoid a cliff."

Sources

Washington Post, "Pfizer tells U.S. officials it cannot supply substantial additional vaccine until late June or July."

New York Times, "Trump Administration Passed on Chance to Secure More of Pfizer Vaccine."

Fox News, "Trump to sign coronavirus vaccine executive order prioritizing Americans over foreign nations."

CNBC, "Trump to sign 'America First' executive order on Covid-19 vaccines Tuesday."

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