Problems with the delivery of vaccines to Pfizer are of concern

(CNN) – Restrictions on vaccine supplies hinders the Trump administration’s hopes of reaching a deal with Pfizer to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the company’s coronavirus vaccine, the latest hurdle to scale-up production of the custom medicines. that the virus is spreading quickly.

Trump and Pfizer government officials have confirmed that the two sides are negotiating that the government will purchase the additional doses for distribution between April and June 2021. But the timing has been a sticking point as the United States is clamoring for the delivery. be ASAP as Pfizer juggles global demand.

Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services, said Wednesday that a complicating factor in the negotiations is that Pfizer has some supply chain issues that will make it more difficult for the company to produce an additional 100 million doses in the spring. . The federal government is negotiating with Pfizer to see how it can help with those manufacturing problems to get the extra 100 million doses, he said.

“We are engaged in active discussions with Pfizer about exercising the options under our contract,” Azar said at an Operation Warp Speed ​​press conference. “We worked with them to find out what kind of help is right for us to provide additional doses.”

Options on the table for Pfizer’s vaccine

Options on the table include using the Defense Production Act to speed up production of some of the raw materials Pfizer needs to develop the vaccine, Azar said in an interview with CNBC’s Shepard Smith on Tuesday.

“They are more reserved with us about their production capabilities, their needs. So we can’t know they have a resource problem until they tell us they have a resource problem, “Azar said on CNBC.” And at that point, I can assure you, like the president, that we have all the powers of the US government. will use to make sure they have what they need to fulfill the contracts we need for the American people.

During Wednesday’s briefing, Azar suggested that Pfizer, which did not receive funding from Operation Warp Speed ​​for vaccine development, was not as forthright about manufacturing issues and the manufacturing process as other partner companies in Operation Warp Speed. Warp Speed ​​such as Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca.

“The other five of us are more deeply involved in supporting the development and production of their product on an ongoing basis, while the relationship Pfizer wanted with Operation Warp Speed ​​was the guaranteed purchase of the vaccine, if approved by the FDA, which means we have had less insight into their manufacturing processes so far, ”said Azar.

“It would be very positive”

Pfizer Chief Executive Albert Bourla said Monday it would be “very positive” if the United States decided to use the Defense Production Act to help the company produce more vaccines faster.

“It will allow us to maximize what we can do,” Bourla said in an interview with CNBC. “We ask them and I hope they will do so very soon as some components operate with critical supply constraints.”

Pfizer had not responded to CNN’s request for comment on ongoing negotiations and supply issues at the time of publication.

Moncef Slaoui, Chief Scientific Advisor to Operation Warp Speed, described the relationship between the government initiative and the companies producing vaccine candidates as one in which some keep the government more ‘at a distance’ while others are ‘further away’. concerned “.

Bourla confirmed ongoing negotiations between the federal government and Pfizer during an interview with CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, on Mondays.

“The United States government is asking for more. Now they have asked us for an additional 100 million doses,” said Bourla. “We can give them the additional 100 million doses, but now we can deliver most of it in the third quarter. The US government wants it in the second quarter, so we’re working closely with them to make sure we can find ways to produce more or allocate doses in the second quarter.


The Trump administration was criticized after The New York Times reported that the U.S. administration had failed to get an additional 100 million doses when Pfizer offered that option this summer. Management has denied reports that it declined this offer from Pfizer.

Frustrated by that criticism, Slaoui defended the government’s plans to buy doses from the six companies that have candidate Covid-19 vaccines in an Operation Warp Speed ​​call Wednesday with reporters.

“I think any reasonable person would understand that we have created and developed a portfolio of vaccines to ensure that a) one of them actually achieves the goal and b) if more than one achieves the goal, that can collect vaccine doses faster than if we were dependent on one provider, “he said during the conversation.” To be honest, I hope once and for all that there is no point in reserving more with one manufacturer than another. “

CNN’s Nadia Kounang contributed to this report.