Trump Could Have Brought Enough Corona Vaccine For Whole Class, Didn't

The Trump administration had the chance to order millions more doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer during the summer, but decided not to, a choice that could mean Pfizer will only deliver additional doses of the vaccine in the US after it has caught up on orders from other countries, the New York Timesreports. The US initially reserved 100 million doses, enough for 50 million people because two doses are needed, but passed on a chance to lock in millions more doses.

The Times reports that

while Pfizer is now negotiating with the administration to provide more of its vaccine, people familiar with the talks say the company cannot guarantee that it will be able to deliver more than the initial 100 million doses — enough to inoculate 50 million people since its vaccine requires two shots — before perhaps next June.

We suppose the idea of a company having trouble meeting actual demand may have seemed exotic to a guy whose campaign mailings constantly tell recipients they MUST ACT NOW and send money before a purely arbitrary deadline.

The Times points out that now there are other countries in line, darn them, and is that even allowed in US America?

After it signed its federal contract in late July, Pfizer went on to seal deals with other governments, including the European Union, which last month finalized an agreement to acquire 200 million doses from Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.

Trump is holding a big "I brought you the vaccine, love me!" event at the White House today to celebrate his achievement of ignoring public health recommendations and then taking the credit for pharma companies' hard work in developing the vaccine. Despite the name of the "Operation Warp Speed" program, the White House effort didn't actually contribute anything to the research and development process; it just guaranteed the US government would buy a lot of vaccine. Except now we're learning the government could have ordered more, but didn't — and just in time for a new deadly surge of cases.

At today's event, Trump will sign an "America First" executive order that won't actually do much of anything, but which declares other nations can't get any vaccine until after Americans have had all the vaccinations they want. But the Times points out that's largely a symbolic gesture that "does not expand the U.S. supply of doses. [...] But it provides Mr. Trump with a talking point to rebut any criticism about the limited initial supply of the vaccine."

Problem solved!

The US has, from the beginning of the pandemic, insisted it would hog as much of the domestically produced vaccine supply as possible, and has "declined to participate in international efforts to supply low-income countries with vaccines." Because the vaccines are ours, OURS! And Donald Trump doesn't like other countries unless they're doing him a favor. Hooray for nationalism, now nobody will laugh at us anymore.

The Times 'splains:

The federal contract signed in July called for Pfizer to deliver 100 million doses by March at a cost of $19.50 a dose — if its vaccine worked. It gave the government the option to request 100 million to 500 million additional doses. It was one of six contracts that the Trump administration signed with vaccine makers in a strategy intended to hedge its bets and maximize the chances of success.

Accounts differ over the timing of the discussions between Pfizer and federal officials about locking in extra doses. Several people said that during late summer or early fall, Pfizer officials repeatedly warned the Trump administration that demand could vastly outstrip supply and urged it to pre-order more doses, but were turned down.

And yes, it was all about being cheap. Despite the contracts being subject to proof of the vaccine's efficacy, a "senior administration official" said any company trying to sell lots of vaccine before it had been fully proven "was just not going to get the government's money."

But oops, Pfizer's vaccine works really well, so now Trump wishes he'd ordered more, but now it's too late, sucks to be us.

Pfizer issued a statement saying that "any additional doses beyond the 100 million are subject to a separate and mutually acceptable agreement," and no thank you, it is not at liberty to discuss any "confidential discussions that may be taking place" with the World's Greatest Negotiator or his lickspittles. (The CDC has warned against licking spittle, but damned if any Trumpflunkies are about to upset the boss.)

As for today's big celebration of Trump's success in defeating the virus before any significant numbers of Americans have actually been near the vaccine, no pharma company honchos are expected to show up, although they were invited. Too much chance of being associated with whatever political garbage and lies Trump spews. An FDA board will meet Thursday to review Pfizer's application for emergency approval of its vaccine, and then agencies are expected to sign off within another day or so after that. Doses could start being delivered within a few hours of the approval. That approval is also expected later in December for the vaccine from Moderna.

Oh, yes, and then there's the incoming Biden administration. Joe Biden said Friday that "there's no detailed plan that we've seen" for the entire process of delivering the vaccines and getting them into people's arms, but Trump officials say there is too such a plan, it's just out there in the states, because the federal government isn't a drugstore, now is it?

The administration says it has leveraged partnerships with manufacturers, distributers and health care providers, so that outside of settings like veterans' hospitals, "it is highly unlikely that a single federal employee will touch a dose of vaccine before it goes into your arm."

At least Biden has announced a top-notch team to take over the nation's public health and disease-prevention agencies in 43 days, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra as head of Health and Human Services and Dr. Rochelle Walensky as director of the CDC. Let's hear it for grownups who know what they're doing!

[NYT / AP / NBC News / NPR]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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