Pfizer has told the Trump administration it cannot provide substantial additional doses of its coronavirus vaccine until late June or July because other countries have rushed to buy up most of its supply, according to multiple individuals familiar with the situation.
Trump administration officials denied there would be availability issues in the second quarter, pointing to other vaccines in the pipeline, but others said issues were possible.
“I am not concerned about our ability to buy vaccines that are available to the entire American public,” said General Paul Ostrowski, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed, the government’s initiative to accelerate vaccine development, in an interview on May 11 Monday. “It is clear that Pfizer has plans with other countries. Many were announced. We understand these parts. “
However, several officials informed of the contracts said supplies from other companies may not be enough to fill the void.
Pfizer officials had urged Operation Warp Speed to purchase 200 million doses or enough of the two-shot regimen for 100 million people, according to people knowledgeable about the issue who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the situation.
But the Warp Speed officials declined, opting instead for 100 million doses, they said. The New York Times first reported that federal officials passed on the opportunity when Pfizer offered to sell more doses.
“Anyone who wanted to sell us … without [FDA] The permit, hundreds of millions of doses in July and August, just wouldn’t get the government money, ”said a senior administration official.
Pfizer said the company might be able to provide 50 million doses at the end of the second quarter, and another 50 million doses in the third quarter, the individuals said.
The government had a different contract with Pfizer than any other company involved in Operation Warp Speed. Pfizer was the only company not taking government money on research and development, which meant U.S. officials had less insight into its decisions than the other companies, said a senior administration official familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Pfizer spokeswoman Amy Rose declined to confirm information about the company’s talks with the government, saying that a separate deal would need to be negotiated over the first 100 million doses the US has already received.
President Trump is expected to sign an executive order that would prioritize vaccinating Americans before providing doses to other countries, according to a senior administration official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the plans.
It is not clear whether the order is related to the Pfizer supply issue, or whether the president can prevent an American company from fulfilling lawful contracts with other countries.
“The executive order reaffirms to the American people that we are going to put America first,” said a senior administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
The vaccine by Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech is expected to receive emergency authorization from the FDA in the next several days, and Moderna is lined up for likely clearance shortly after that. Shipments of the vaccines will begin within 24 hours of the approvals, federal officials have said.
By Christabel Airo