17 Dec 2020: US angling to secure more of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine
U.S. officials have said that they are actively negotiating for additional purchases of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine after they missed the chance to lock in a contract this summer since it was still unclear how well the shots would work.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and special advisor Dr. Moncef Slaoui have called it "the core issue."
Fact: No immediate comment from Pfizer
Although there was no immediate comment from the company, CEO Albert Bourla told CNN this week it is "working collaboratively" with the government to deliver additional vaccine through the federal Operation Warp Speed which is White House-backed, taxpayer-funded effort to develop coronavirus vaccines and treatments.
Criticism: Congressional Democrats slammed Trump administration for not securing adequate vaccine
A group of senators led by Patty Murray of Washington and Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote to HHS, "We are concerned the failure to secure an adequate supply of vaccines will needlessly prolong the COVID-19 pandemic in this country, causing further loss of life and economic devastation."
They added that this is another instance of the government's failure to develop a comprehensive vaccine plan.
Details: Pending contracts will ensure more vaccine: Azar
Azar sought to rebut that concern Wednesday, saying that pending contracts with a number of manufacturers will ensure enough vaccine for all Americans by around the middle of next year.
A second vaccine from Moderna appears headed for Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) approval within days, and many more vaccine candidates are advancing through clinical trials.
Fact: Pfizer and German pharmaceutical BioNTech raised hope among Americans
Pfizer and German pharmaceutical BioNTech vaccine was first to become available to the Americans, raising hopes of taming COVID-19 that has killed over 300,000 people in the U.S. and hobbled the national economy. Some polls show skepticism about getting vaccinated may be easing.
Negotiations: We are engaged in active negotiations: Azar
Pfizer was not as closely involved with Operation Warp Speed as it preferred to retain control over it's own development and manufacturing. But the government entered into a contract to buy 100M doses of the vaccine, the first of which were shipped this week.
Azar said they are trying to strike a deal to receive another 100M doses by the middle of 2021.
Fact: Operation Warp Speed aims to provide free vaccines to Americans
After early failures with testing, Trump administration is hoping to write a very different ending with vaccines. Operation Warp Speed has financed the development, manufacture and distribution of millions of doses, with the goal of providing a free vaccine to any American who wants one.
Goal: The goal was to have several promising vaccines: Slaoui
Vaccine scientist Moncef Slaoui, who is helping lead the federal effort, said the goal was to have several promising vaccines in development.
"We built a portfolio to ensure one of them at least would make it to the finish line," he said.
He further stated, "So it wouldn't have made sense to preorder more from a manufacturer before we knew how a vaccine worked."
Overfilled vials: Some Pfizer vaccine vials are apparently overfilled: FDA
The FDA stated that some Pfizer vaccine vials may contain more than the standard five doses. It followed reports from hospitals and pharmacy staff that some vials are overfilled.
The FDA advised health professionals to use every full dose possible "given the public health emergency."
Meanwhile, the agency is communicating with Pfizer about this issue.
Details: I expect negotiations with Pfizer to be successful: Slaoui
Slaoui and Azar said that because of Operation Warp Speed's arm's length relationship with Pfizer, officials had less of a window into the company's manufacturing and any potential problems that might develop.
"We of course would welcome having another 100 million doses," said Slaoui, adding that it's his expectation that negotiations with Pfizer will be successful.