The Trump administration and Pfizer announced a deal on Wednesday for the pharmaceutical company to provide an additional 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine by the end of July, easing a potential shortage.
The agreement, along with orders for another vaccine made by Moderna, means the United States has now secured commitments for enough doses to vaccinate all but about 60 million of the roughly 260 million adult Americans who are eligible to be inoculated.
Pfizer had agreed this summer, before its vaccine had even been proven effective, to provide an initial 100 million doses to the United States. Under the new agreement, Pfizer will provide an additional 70 million doses by the end of June and another 30 million by the end of July, doubling the deliveries it promised in the initial contract.
So far, Pfizer and Moderna, the only two producers whose vaccines have been approved for emergency distribution to Americans, together have pledged to ship 400 million doses in the next seven months. Both vaccines require two doses.
The U.S. government will pay $1.95 billion for the second order, or $19.50 per dose, according to a statement from the company. Pfizer’s 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 get better access to around nine specialized products it needs to make the vaccine. Under the Korean War-era law, the government can secure critical supplies more quickly by assigning a contract a priority rating, forcing suppliers to bump orders from that contractor to the front of the line.
The government’s promise to free up supplies is not mentioned in statements issued by Pfizer or the government, but was critical to the deal, according to people familiar with the negotiations.
As early as September, Pfizer began asking for the government’s help in obtaining supplies, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times. At that time, the administration had already granted priority status to orders from Moderna and other companies that had been working with it more closely to develop their vaccines, putting Pfizer at a disadvantage. That included two companies — Sanofi and Novavax — that have yet to begin large-scale clinical trials in the United States.
A senior Trump administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely about internal discussions said the government was unwilling to intervene on Pfizer’s behalf earlier because the company refused to promise that it would use raw materials procured with the government’s help to produce vaccines solely for Americans.
Others familiar with the negotiations said the government expressed concern that prioritizing Pfizer could squeeze the supply chain, hindering the other vaccine makers that the government was backing through its vaccine development program, called Operation Warp Speed.
The new agreement with Pfizer includes options through which the government could purchase an additional 400 million doses. But the conditions for exercising those options were unclear. The earlier contract from July gave Pfizer the ability to “reasonably” refuse a request by the federal government for more doses.
The administration has been negotiating with Pfizer for more doses for more than a month. Among the obstacles were Pfizer’s commitments to other nations that had moved faster than the United States to lock in large orders, according to people familiar with the situation.
Federal officials including Alex M. Azar II, the secretary of health and human services, have repeatedly said that the administration has secured pledges for enough doses to cover all Americans who want to be vaccinated by June. But even with Pfizer’s new contract, the government is still short doses for about 60 million Americans eligible to be inoculated.
Lawmakers agreed to a plan to issue stimulus payments of $600 and distribute a federal unemployment benefit of $300 for 11 weeks. You can find more about the bill and what’s in it for you here.
- Will I receive another stimulus payment? Individual adults with adjusted gross income on their 2019 tax returns of up to $75,000 a year would receive a $600 payment, and heads of households making up to $112,500 and a couple (or someone whose spouse died in 2020) earning up to $150,000 a year would get twice that amount. If they have dependent children, they would also get $600 for each child. People with incomes just above these levels would receive a partial payment that declines by $5 for every $100 in income.
- When might my payment arrive? Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC that he expected the first payments to go out before the end of the year. But it will be a while before all eligible people receive their money.
- Does the agreement affect unemployment insurance? Lawmakers agreed to extend the amount of time that people can collect unemployment benefits and restart an extra federal benefit that is provided on top of the usual state benefit. But instead of $600 a week, it would be $300. That would last through March 14.
- I am behind on my rent or expect to be soon. Will I receive any relief? The agreement would provide $25 billion to be distributed through state and local governments to help renters who have fallen behind. To receive assistance, households would have to meet several conditions: Household income (for 2020) cannot exceed more than 80 percent of the area median income; at least one household member must be at risk of homelessness or housing instability; and individuals must qualify for unemployment benefits or have experienced financial hardship — directly or indirectly — because of the pandemic. The agreement said assistance would be prioritized for families with lower incomes and that have been unemployed for three months or more.
A third vaccine maker, Johnson & Johnson, is expected to announce results from its clinical trials next month and could cover a shortfall. Other vaccine makers participating in Operation Warp Speed could also come through, but so far have encountered significant delays.
At a briefing on Wednesday, Moncef Slaoui, one of the leaders of Operation Warp Speed, said Johnson & Johnson’s product looked like “a wonderful vaccine” and could add significantly to the nation’s supply by the spring. Instead of a shortage, he said, “the likelihood is that there is a significant redundancy” in doses for Americans in the first half of next year.
According to one document that a European official posted and then deleted on social media, Pfizer completed a deal last month to sell the European Union 200 million doses at a cost of $14.50 each. But it is unclear whether that price is accurate. In both of its contracts, the United States agreed to pay Pfizer $19.50 per dose.
Pfizer has said only that its pricing was based on volume and delivery dates, and the European Union placed the biggest order first.
The Pfizer contracts alone will now cost the government nearly $4 billion dollars. On Monday, Congress approved a stimulus package that set aside $20 billion for the government to purchase vaccines.
But in a surprise turnaround on Tuesday night, President Trump railed against the bill, hinting he might not sign it in its current form.