President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Tuesday to ensure that priority access to Covid-19 vaccines acquired by the US government is given to the US people before helping other nations, senior administration officials said on Monday.
The Trump administration is confident it will have enough vaccines to inoculate anyone who wants a vaccine by the end of the second quarter of 2021, an official said, disputing a New York Times report that the government declined when Pfizer Inc. offered late summer to sell more vaccine doses to the United States.
Trump, who has been sharply criticized for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, is keen to take credit for the rapid development and distribution of a vaccine.
An official said the executive order would lead to the formulation of guidelines for US authorities to help other countries obtain the vaccine when US demand was met.
It was unclear why an executive order was needed to ensure the vaccines were first distributed within the country, although the order seemed in part designed to underscore Trump’s “America First” philosophy ahead of incumbent President-elect Joe Biden.
The White House is holding a summit on Tuesday to explain plans for vaccine distribution through Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, which has organized the effort. Trump and other officials will speak.
Vaccine developers Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc will not participate.
A White House official said the companies did not come because they had active applications waiting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. A senior FDA official, Dr. Peter Marks, is scheduled to address Tuesday’s event.
Invited to the meeting include pharmaceutical distributors, pharmacies and logistics companies such as McKesson Corp, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc, CVS Health Corp, United Parcel Service Inc and FedEx Corp.
The New York Times reported that Pfizer may not be able to deliver more of its vaccine to the United States until next June due to its commitments to other countries.
An administrative official stated that Pfizer’s vaccine was still in clinical trials last summer and that the government had secured advanced offers to obtain several other vaccine candidates.
“Anyone who wanted to sell us, guaranteed without the approval of the EUA (FDA Emergency Use Authorization), hundreds of millions of doses back in July and August would just not get government money,” the person added.
About 85 percent of long-term care and care facilities around the country had signed up for a mobile vaccination service from CVS and Walgreens, the official said. The US government was concerned about cyberattacks related to the vaccine and had protected themselves against them, he added.
Pfizer spokeswoman Sharon Castillo said: “The US government has placed a first order for 100 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine, and Pfizer is ready to start delivering initial doses soon after receiving an emergency FDA authorization. Any additional doses over 100 million are subject to a separate and mutually acceptable agreement. “
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told NBC News that the US government had the option to purchase an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, but declined to say whether the administration pursued that option.
Representatives of Democratic President Biden’s transition team were not invited to the summit. Trump, a Republican who lost the November 3 election to Biden, has refused to admit it.