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The Pfizer Coronavirus Vaccine Is Near Approval, but U.S. May Have to Wait to Buy More

With Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine poised for Food and Drug Administration authorization for emergency use, there’s speculation about when the United States will buy another batch of doses — and whether the Trump administration already missed its chance.

Although a Pfizer board member says the government declined to buy more doses beyond the initial 100 million agreed upon in July, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told PBS Newshour that this is inaccurate. The company never made a formal offer saying how many doses it would deliver and when — two things that are needed to sign an additional deal.

“They refused to commit to any other production or delivery by a time certain,” he said, explaining that the initial doses will be delivered by March, and there is an option for the government to buy another 500 million after that. “I’m certainly not going to sign a deal with Pfizer, giving them $10 billion to buy vaccine that they could deliver to us five, 10 years hence. That doesn’t make any sense.”

Azar said the government started new negotiations with Pfizer in early October, but “they still resisted giving us any date by which they would do it.” He said they’re making progress in their negotiations, but the government is willing to use “every power of the Defense Production Act” to get the additional necessary Pfizer vaccine doses.

Pfizer board member and former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb told CNBC Tuesday that the federal government declined “multiple times” to purchase more doses of Pfizer’s vaccine over the summer, and it may have missed out on getting more in the second quarter of 2021.

“Pfizer did offer an additional allotment coming out of that plan — basically the second quarter allotment — multiple times,” Gottlieb told CNBC.

Gottlieb noted that the government has agreements to buy hundreds of millions of doses of vaccines from six manufacturers as part of Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s more than $10 billion push to make a coronavirus vaccine available in record time. He suspects the government is betting more than one vaccine would ultimately get the FDA’s authorization.

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—Sydney Lupkin, NPR

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