The federal government has reached an agreement with drug manufacturer Pfizer to secure an additional 100 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine by the end of July, the company said today.
Under the terms of the new deal, the government will pay $ 1.95 billion for the extra doses. Of the new vaccine doses, 70 million are expected by 30 June, and the remaining 30 million must be delivered by 31 July. The agreement also allows U.S. authorities to order up to 400 million additional doses of the vaccine later.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement that the additional Pfizer vaccine “can give Americans even more confidence that we will have enough supplies to vaccinate any American who wants it by June 2021,” when added to the 100 million doses that the US government has already agreed to buy from Pfizer as well as the recently approved Moderna vaccine.
The government has also ordered a total of 200 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which is now also in use. Each vaccine requires that each person receiving it receive two doses, so that 400 million total doses are enough to immunize about 200 million people.
A rocky road
Pfizer initially offered the extra doses in its first round of talks with the U.S. government in July, The New York Times reported. At the time, the Fed accepted an initial order of 100 million doses, but repeatedly refused to lock in an order of between 100 million and 500 million additional doses, “despite repeated warnings from Pfizer officials that demand could far exceed the offer. “
When U.S. officials refused to commit, Pfizer instead reached agreements with other nations to sell the vaccines they could manufacture. To reach the new agreement with Pfizer to secure an additional 100 million doses in the first half of 2021, the government agreed to invoke the Defense Production Act to give the company access to specialized supplies it needs to increase production, The The New York Times reported.
The Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency permit for the Pfizer vaccine very late on Friday, December 11th. Shipments of the vaccine to facilities nationwide began almost immediately, and the first vaccinations of health personnel were underway the following Monday morning.
Shortly after the first wave of vaccines went out, however, distribution was hit. More than a dozen states found that they would receive significantly fewer doses than expected – half or less of the expected volume – in the second week of vaccine distribution. States, of course, asked the feds, and HHS’s Azar identified the “core problem” as “Pfizer’s ability to produce” vaccine fast enough around “production challenges.”
However, in a statement, Pfizer pointed a finger directly at the U.S. federal government for snafu.
“Pfizer has no production issues with our COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are pending or delayed,” the company said on December 17. “This week, we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked. to send by the U.S. Government to the locations specified by them. We have several million doses in our warehouse, but as of now we have not received any shipping instructions for additional doses. “