WASHINGTON, DC (NEXSTAR) — President Donald Trump hosted a summit at the White House Tuesday to praise his administration’s rapid development of a coronavirus vaccine.
“The gold standard vaccine has been done in less than nine months,” Trump said in his opening remarks.
However, his administration is coming under fire for failing to buy millions of additional doses from the leading company. Health Secretary Alex Azar defended the decision to purchase the initial 100 million doses over Pfizer’s larger offer earlier this year.
“We can’t very well offer $10 billion to someone to commit to buy vaccine sight unseen with no data, no efficacy or safety profile, and no date on when it would be delivered,” Azar said.
Azar said the administration still has the option to buy the additional 500 million doses, but those negotiations continue, and he would not say if the U.S. lost its spot to other countries while Pfizer ramps up production.
During the summit, President Trump also signed an executive order to prioritize Americans over foreign countries for the vaccine. Azar said it was not a response to the Pfizer discussions.
“I don’t think this executive order is in any way connected to that, but let me be clear,” Azar said. “The president and I will use all authority we have under the Defense Production Act to make sure the American people get what they need.”
Much of the vaccine distribution will take place during the next administration. Although President-elect Biden’s transition team was not invited to Tuesday’s summit, several governors were.
“Texas is categorized as being more prepared than any other state for this vaccine distribution,” said Gov. Greg Abbott, R-TX.
Abbott said his state has more than a million doses on the way, the technology to store them, and thousands of providers ready to distribute them.
“The number of vaccine doses we’re getting in December alone is more than the total number of Texans who have tested positive for COVID-19,” he said.
Abbott said the first doses will cover the state’s healthcare workers who are first in line as soon as the FDA authorizes the vaccine.
“The next day we will be ready to begin the distribution process,” he said.
It could happen as early as this weekend. The FDA said Tuesday the Pfizer vaccine offers strong protection after the first dose regardless of a patient’s race, weight or age. It will require a second shot about three weeks later.