The Trump administration’s multiple failures to secure pandemic supplies this year have further diminished the president’s status as the world’s greatest deal-maker. And that was before perhaps the biggest screw-up of all involving Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, the first such shot to be ready for wide-scale use.
According the New York Times and the Washington Post, Pfizer urged the administration’s vaccine development project Operation Warp Speed to buy 200 million doses late this summer, enough for 100 million Americans to be vaccinated with the two doses required. Warp Speed officials declined the recommendation, choosing to purchase half that amount. “Anyone who wanted to sell us … without an [FDA] approval, hundreds of millions of doses back in July and August, was just not going to get the government’s money,” a senior administration official told the Washington Post.
When federal officials contacted Pfizer last weekend to buy another 100 million doses, after the company was able to prove its shot was 95 percent effective against the virus, the Post reports that the pharmaceutical firm said it would not be able to provide that amount until the summer because other countries had already placed orders. Those nations include Canada, Australia, Chile, and the U.K., though the European Union was the largest buyer, with 300 million doses purchased.
The reports of the Trump administration’s failure to procure enough doses of the Pfizer vaccine come the day before the president is expected to sign an executive order prioritizing vaccinating Americans before the U.S. government helps in the worldwide effort. It also comes on a day in which Dr. Anthony Fauci restated his estimate that vaccine distribution could begin for the general public as early as April. And while there are other vaccine candidates in the works — Moderna anticipates it will ship 20 million doses in the U.S. during initial rollout — the bungling of the Pfizer purchase suggests how difficult it will be for the U.S. to deliver speedy vaccine access at home, let alone the challenges in helping out abroad.