Pfizer nears cope with U.S. authorities for extra doses

Walgreens pharmacist Jessica Sahni will hold the vaccine against Pfizer BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the New Jewish Home in New York on December 21, 2020.

Yuki Iwamura | Reuters

The U.S. government is about to sign a deal with Pfizer for up to 100 million additional doses of its coronavirus vaccine, a source told CNBC’s Meg Tirrell on Tuesday.

The deal could be announced on Wednesday, according to the source. The New York Times reported the news first.

Pfizer declined to comment, saying the company “could not comment on confidential discussions that may be taking place with the US government.” The U.S. Department of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The news comes after Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla told CNBC last week that the company is negotiating with the federal government to provide an additional 100 million Covid-19 vaccine doses next year.

Pfizer and the US are working out the timing details, Bourla said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Dec. 14. The company could provide many of these cans in the third quarter of 2021, but the U.S. government is pushing for them in the second quarter, he said.

“We’re working very cooperatively to find a solution and allocate that 100 million [doses] in the second quarter if possible or in many of them, “Bourla said, adding that the company has not yet signed an agreement with the US.

Unlike other drug companies, Pfizer did not accept federal funding to develop or manufacture its vaccine. Pfizer has already signed a contract with the US government to supply 100 million doses of the vaccine as part of Operation Warp Speed, enough to vaccinate 50 million people. Under the agreement, the Americans will receive the vaccine for free.

The initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine are limited as production begins. Officials predict it will be months before everyone in the US who wants to be vaccinated is vaccinated. The U.S. shipped 2.9 million doses of the vaccine last week and plans to ship 2 million doses of that vaccine this week, according to General Gustave Perna, who oversees logistics for Operation Warp Speed.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer’s target for vaccine launch of 50 million doses worldwide by the end of the year was only half of its originally planned 100 million. In a statement, Pfizer said there were several factors influencing the number of estimated doses, including increasing the size of a vaccine at an “unprecedented” pace.

The US government has criticized Pfizer in recent weeks, stating that the drug company kept federal officials “at bay” throughout the manufacturing process for its vaccine.

Minister of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told CNBC on Thursday that he would like the federal government’s relationship with Pfizer to change.

“You’re part of Operation Warp Speed, but … it’s a different relationship” than the government deals with Moderna and other federal drug companies that have received federal funding, Azar told CNBC’s Squawk Box in an interview. “We pull together, give [Pfizer] A guaranteed purchase that allows them to make capital investments has a predictable buyer, but we don’t have full visibility into their making because they kept this a bit more on-market. “

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