President Donald Trump is expected to sign an executive order on Tuesday to ensure that U.S. efforts to help other countries vaccinate their populations against Covid-19 are given a lower priority than domestic vaccinations.
In a call to reporters Monday afternoon, a senior administration official described the order primarily as “an affirmation of the President’s commitment to America First.” Additionally, the command is instructing a handful of government agencies, including the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, to work together to help international partners and allies obtain Covid vaccines, the official said.
CNBC has not examined the proposed text of the Executive Ordinance, which could prove largely symbolic. The plans for the Executive Order have already been announced by Fox News.
A administration official told NBC News Monday that the schedule for providing foreign aid will be supply and demand, but is expected to begin in the second quarter. President-elect Joe Biden will take office on Jan. 20 and is likely to shape his own policy for the receipt and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, potentially limiting the impact of Trump’s command.
Trump is expected to sign the order after making remarks at the start of a Covid-19 summit in the White House on Tuesday, a senior administration official said Monday. The event will include meetings with administrative officials and drug distributors who will discuss the process of screening and distributing vaccine candidates, the official said.
Trump has largely ignored the growing coronavirus crisis over the past few weeks despite a surge in infections and a rising death toll exceeding 2,000 deaths a day, instead focusing on legal efforts to scrap the November presidential election results .
However, the signing will take place at a particularly critical stage in vaccine development.
Trump will sign the order just days before Thursday’s Food and Drug Administration meeting to review a promising vaccine from Pfizer and German drug maker BioNTech.
This vaccine can be approved for use by the end of this week. The FDA will meet on December 17th to discuss another Moderna candidate.
While some particularly at-risk Americans may be vaccinated soon after the vaccines are approved, officials warn that it will be months before anyone who wants a vaccine gets one.
Minister of Health and Human Services Alex Azar predicted on Sunday that vaccines are unlikely to be available to everyone applying for a vaccine by the second quarter.
The Trump administration signed a deal this summer to buy 100 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, if it works, enough to supply 50 million Americans.
On Monday afternoon, the New York Times reported that the government had rejected an offer from Pfizer for additional doses at the time.
The Times reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter, that the company may have limited vaccines supply due to its commitments to other countries and may not be able to supply additional vaccines to the US until June.
A spokesman for HHS, pressured by the Times whether the government missed the opportunity to buy more of Pfizer’s vaccine, said: “We are confident that we will receive 100 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, as in our contract agreed and beyond that we have five other vaccine candidates. “
A Pfizer spokesman told the Times that “the company cannot comment on confidential discussions with the US government.”
The White House and HHS did not immediately provide details of the executive order. Pfizer and BioNTech did not respond to emails seeking comment.
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