Senate Democrats press Trump on possible vaccine shortage

The Democrats cite a New York Times report that the Trump administration declined to purchase more vaccines from Pfizer, even as other countries finalized agreements securing hundreds of millions of doses. The situation has raised concerns that the United States will face a “vaccine cliff” in the spring as many Americans wait for shots and other nations race ahead on vaccinating their populations. Pfizer also has said it’s dealing with supply constraints amid global demand and needs to prioritize existing orders.

As a result, “the United States Government will not be able to purchase additional supply from Pfizer until pre-orders from other countries are filled,” wrote the Democrats, led by Patty Murray of Washington and Ron Wyden of Oregon — the ranking members of the HELP and Finance committees, respectively. Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio were among the other 16 senators who signed the letter.

The Trump administration has denied that it turned down an opportunity to purchase additional vaccine doses from Pfizer. “We have been, and continue to, negotiate with Pfizer for additional doses,” a Health and Human Services Department spokesperson said last week.

But Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s former FDA commissioner and current Pfizer board member, has said that the Trump administration declined to buy additional doses from the company, even after data on Pfizer’s vaccine last month showed promising results.

“There were multiple conversations with the U.S. government about taking more supply in the second quarter,” Gottlieb said Monday on CNBC. “The company wasn’t taken up on that offer, as recently as November.”

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla also told CNBC on Monday the company was still negotiating with the Trump administration for another 100 million doses, enough for 50 million people. Bourla said Pfizer could deliver the shots by the third quarter of 2021, but the administration was pushing for delivery in the second quarter.