WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump aims to take credit for the speedy development of forthcoming coronavirus vaccines, even as his administration is coming under scrutiny for failing to lock in a chance to buy millions of additional doses of one of the leading coronavirus vaccine contenders this summer.
That decision could delay the delivery of a second batch of doses until manufacturer Pfizer fulfills other international contracts.
The revelation was first reported by the New York Times and later confirmed to the Associated Press by people familiar with the matter.
Earlier this year, Pfizer agreed to make 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine — enough to inoculate 50 million Americans — and gave the federal government the option to purchase up to five times as many doses. Then, this summer, Trump administration officials reportedly declined an offer to purchase 100 million more doses of the Pfizer vaccine.
According to the Times, Pfizer must now also fulfill hefty orders from other countries — notably, an order for 200 million doses from the European Union — before making more doses for the U.S.
In a statement, the Department of Health and Human Services said it was confident that Pfizer would be able to fulfill it's current 100 million dose order, and pointed to the fact that several other vaccine candidates are near approval — including one from Moderna, which could be approved by the end of th month.
“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,” an HHS spokesperson said in a statement to the Times.
The reports came on the eve of Trump’s plans to host a White House summit on Tuesday, aimed at celebrating the expected approval of the first vaccine later this week.
At that event, Trump plans to sign an executive order aimed at prioritizing the supply of U.S. vaccines for Americans — though the order does not appear to have legal sway, according to the New York Times.
Officials from President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team were not invited to Tuesday's event at the White House, despite the fact that the Biden administration will handle the bulk of the distribution work.