One of the great myths that propelled Donald Trump to the White House in 2016 was that of his allegedly singular dealmaking skills, which he claimed would make America great again. Obviously that’s not actually how things panned out, some recent examples being (1) the administration’s failure to obtain medical supplies at the height of the pandemic, and (2) its inexplicable decision not to buy enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines to vaccinate the majority of the country by the late spring or early summer. Despite being offered the opportunity to do so on numerous occasions!
On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that Pfizer told the Trump administration that it would be unable to provide “substantial additional doses” of its vaccine until late June at the earliest because they’d already been allocated to other countries. But wait, you say, isn’t Pfizer an American company? And isn’t Trump’s entire schtick about fucking over other nations in a narrow-minded attempt to put the U.S. first? And now that we’re remembering it, didn’t the Trump administration basically try to bribe a German firm developing a vaccine in March to relocate its research to the U.S., in a move that was interpreted as Trump trying to ensure any “inoculation would be available first, and perhaps exclusively, in the United States”? And so wouldn’t he at least want to make sure America had enough doses of a highly promising vaccine to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible? And while the answer to all those questions is, of course, yes, such queries fail to take into account that despite claiming to be a genius businessman, Donald Trump is actually this country’s foremost moron:
Last summer Pfizer officials had urged Operation Warp Speed to purchase 200 million doses, or enough of the two-shot regimen for 100 million people, according to people knowledgeable about the issue who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss the situation. But the Warp Speed officials declined, opting instead for 100 million doses, they said.
That means the U.S. government may not be able to ramp up as rapidly as it had expected from the 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that it purchased earlier this year, raising questions about whether it can keep to its aggressive schedule to vaccinate most Americans by late spring or early summer.
On Tuesday former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb, who now sits on Pfizer’s board of directors, told CNBC that the administration didn’t just turn down the drug manufacturer’s offer to buy more doses on one occasion, but a number of times. “Pfizer did offer an additional allotment coming out of that [Michigan] plant, basically the second-quarter allotment, to the United States government multiple times, and as recently as after the interim data came out and we knew this vaccine looked to be effective,” Gottlieb said.
Ask the administration, though, and it was simply choosing not to put all of its eggs in one COVID-19 vaccine basket. “Let me remind everybody what our strategy is and has always been: We selected six different vaccines to build a portfolio, to manage the risk that some may work and some may not work, but also to ensure that as more than one would work that we would accumulate vaccine doses from this portfolio of vaccines,” Moncef Slaoui, chief science adviser to the government’s Operation Warp Speed, said on ABC Tuesday. “In the summer if somebody came to us and said, ‘Let’s buy more of this vaccine or that vaccine,’ no one reasonable would buy more from any one of those vaccines because we didn’t know which one would work and which one may be better than the other,” he added.
Unfortunately, as The Hill notes:
…so far the most promising vaccines are from just two companies, Moderna and Pfizer. If more vaccines from other companies prove to be safe and effective, it would reduce the need for additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and the administration’s strategy could still work out. But if Pfizer turns out to be the main source of effective vaccines, not having secured more doses could be a problem.