US and Pfizer Seal Deal for 100 million more vaccine doses

Trump’s administration and Pfizer announced a deal on Wednesday for the pharmaceutical company to supply an additional 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine by the end of July, lessening a possible shortage.

The deal, along with Moderna’s requests for another vaccine, means that the United States has now secured a commitment to sufficient doses to vaccinate everyone except about 60 million of the approximately 260 million adult Americans who can be inoculated.

Pfizer agreed this summer, even before its vaccine proved effective, to supply the United States with 100 million starting doses. Under the new agreement, Pfizer will supply 70 million additional doses by the end of June and another 30 million by the end of July, doubling the deliveries promised in the initial contract.

So far, Pfizer and Moderna, the only two producers whose vaccines have been approved for emergency distribution to Americans, have pledged to send 400 million doses over the next seven months. Both vaccines require two doses.

The United States government will pay $ 1.95 billion for the second order, or $ 19.50 per dose, according to a company note. The Pfizer vaccine was developed with a German partner, BioNTech.

As part of the deal, the government agreed to invoke the Defense Production Act to help Pfizer gain better access to about nine specialized products it needs to make the vaccine. Under Korean War-time law, the government can guarantee essential supplies more quickly by assigning a contract a priority rating, forcing suppliers to transfer orders from that contractor to the front line.

The government’s promise to release supplies is not mentioned in statements released by Pfizer or the government, but it was central to the business, according to people familiar with the talks.

As early as September, Pfizer began asking for government help to obtain supplies, according to documents analyzed by The New York Times. At that time, the government had already given priority to requests from Moderna and other companies that had been working with it more closely to develop its vaccines, putting Pfizer at a disadvantage. This included two companies – Sanofi and Novavax – that have not yet started large-scale clinical trials in the United States.

A senior Trump administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely about the internal discussions said that the government was not willing to intervene on behalf of Pfizer previously because the company refused to promise to use raw materials purchased with the help of Pfizer. government to produce vaccines exclusively for Americans.

Others familiar with the talks said the government expressed concern that prioritizing Pfizer could damage the supply chain, harming the other vaccine manufacturers the government was supporting through its vaccine development program, called Operation Warp Speed.

The new agreement with Pfizer includes options through which the government can buy an additional 400 million doses. But the conditions for exercising these options were not clear. The previous July contract gave Pfizer the ability to “reasonably” refuse a request from the federal government for more doses.

Management has been negotiating additional doses with Pfizer for more than a month. Among the obstacles were Pfizer’s commitments to other nations that moved faster than the United States to close large orders, according to people familiar with the situation.

Federal officials, including Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, have said repeatedly that the government has ensured sufficient doses to cover all Americans who wish to be vaccinated by June. But even with Pfizer’s new contract, the government still offers short doses for about 60 million Americans eligible to be vaccinated.

A third vaccine manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, is expected to announce the results of its clinical trials next month and may close a gap. Other vaccine manufacturers participating in Operation Warp Speed ​​may also pass, but so far have encountered significant delays.

At a briefing on Wednesday, Moncef Slaoui, one of the leaders of Operation Warp Speed, said the Johnson & Johnson product looked “a wonderful vaccine” and could significantly increase the nation’s supply in the spring. Instead of a shortage, he said, “the likelihood is that there will be significant redundancy” in doses for Americans in the first half of next year.

According to a document that a European official posted and then deleted on social media, Pfizer struck a deal last month to sell 200 million doses to the European Union at a cost of $ 14.50 each. But it is not clear whether that price is accurate. In both contracts, the United States agreed to pay Pfizer $ 19.50 per dose.

Pfizer just said that its price was based on volume and delivery dates, and the European Union placed the largest order first.

Pfizer’s contracts alone will cost the government nearly $ 4 billion. On Monday, Congress approved a stimulus package that reserves $ 20 billion for the government to buy vaccines.

But in a surprise twist on Tuesday night, President Trump protested the bill, suggesting that he might not sign it in its current form.