12.15.20

Peters & Stabenow Press Administration on Decision Not to Purchase More Coronavirus Vaccines

Senators Demand Transparency on Administration’s Vaccine Distribution Plan

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Debbie Stabenow (MI) joined several of their colleagues to press Dr. Moncef Slaoui, Chief Advisor of Operation Warp Speed, and General Gustave Perna, Chief Operating Office of Operation Warp Speed, about recent reports that earlier this year the Trump Administration declined to purchase additional doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine when given the opportunity. The decision could slow efforts to launch a nationwide vaccination campaign as the U.S. will reportedly be unable to purchase additional doses of the vaccine from Pfizer until pre-orders from other countries are filled. Pfizer’s largest American manufacturing site is located in Portage, Michigan, where the first batches of Coronavirus vaccines were shipped out across the country on Sunday morning. In their letter, the Senators express concern about the Trump Administration’s lack of planning and transparency, and press for more information about the Administration’s preparations to purchase additional vaccines.

“We write to you about reports the United States Government declined to exercise its option to purchase additional doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year. We are concerned the failure to secure an adequate supply of vaccines will needlessly prolong the COVID-19 pandemic in this country, causing further loss of life and economic devastation. We fear this is yet another instance in which the Trump Administration’s failure to develop a comprehensive national vaccines plan in a timely manner could jeopardize efforts to get people vaccinated and ultimately end this pandemic,” wrote the Senators.

The Senators continued: “To earn public confidence, demonstrate accountability, and ensure the incoming Biden Administration has the information it needs to hit the ground running in getting our COVID-19 response on track, the Administration must be more transparent about its preparations, as well as how much funding is available, and is needed, to purchase, distribute, and administer sufficient vaccine to end this pandemic.”

As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has led several efforts to ensure the Coronavirus vaccine process is rooted in science and transparency and that its distribution is efficient, swift and equitable. Peters pressed the Trump Administration for information on their preparations to meet the enormous challenge of coordinating the wide distribution of Coronavirus vaccines. He also released a report highlighting shortcomings in the Trump Administration’s vaccine distribution plans and providing recommendations to ensure that vaccines will be safe, effectivetrusted by the public, free, and widely available to every community. Peters has also pressed the Trump Administration to take swift action to ensure the U.S. has enough syringes and needles needed to immunize millions of Americans once Coronavirus vaccines are authorized for distributionPeters also introduced legislation to address shortages of medical supplies and personal protective equipment by encouraging domestic production.

Full text of the letter below available here.

Dear Dr. Slaoui and General Perna:

We write to you about reports the United States Government declined to exercise its option to purchase additional doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine earlier this year. We are concerned the failure to secure an adequate supply of vaccines will needlessly prolong the COVID-19 pandemic in this country, causing further loss of life and economic devastation. We fear this is yet another instance in which the Trump Administration’s failure to develop a comprehensive national vaccines plan in a timely manner could jeopardize efforts to get people vaccinated and ultimately end this pandemic.

While we are encouraged by the Food and Drug Administration’s decision to grant an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, we are concerned that the Trump Administration’s decision not to purchase more doses when given the opportunity will mean this development will not have the impact it could have to protect families from COVID-19. According to news reports, Pfizer offered the United States Government the chance to pre-purchase doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in excess of the initial order for 100 million doses. When doing so, Pfizer reportedly warned that demand for its vaccine would likely outpace supply. However, the Trump Administration declined that offer; in consequence, the United States Government will not be able to purchase additional supply from Pfizer until pre-orders from other countries are filled. The European Union has finalized a deal with Pfizer for up to 300 million doses, and Canada has agreements to purchase up to 76 million doses.

There have been over 15 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States and over 287,000 associated deaths. Hospitals across the country are at capacity and facing increasing numbers of infections in the coming weeks. The number of daily COVID-19 deaths soared to a new high of over 3,100 this week. Our government must widely distribute safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines that can be administered to patients at no cost as soon as possible to help stop transmission of this deadly virus in our communities. Yet, if we do not have sufficient vaccines purchased, there will soon be nothing to distribute. Reports this week indicate the U.S. may face a “vaccine cliff” this spring, due to the Trump Administration’s failure to purchase sufficient doses of vaccine.

Operation Warp Speed anticipates distributing vaccines for 20 million people this month and 50 million people by the end of January. Limited supplies of vaccines, however, will force experts to make hard decisions about who should receive the first doses of the vaccine. Indeed, millions of Americans may not receive the vaccine for months or nearly a year. The longer it takes to vaccinate people, the longer it will be until we can have a meaningful recovery from this pandemic.

Given these reports, we are very concerned the Trump Administration has not adequately planned for vaccine demand in the coming months, potentially imperiling the public health.  To earn public confidence, demonstrate accountability, and ensure the incoming Biden Administration has the information it needs to hit the ground running in getting our COVID-19 response on track, the Administration must be more transparent about its preparations, as well as how much funding is available, and is needed, to purchase, distribute, and administer sufficient vaccine to end this pandemic.

To provide this transparency, we respectfully request a briefing to respond to the following questions by December 28, 2020.

  1. What is your current projection of how many vaccine doses are necessary to vaccinate the entire population?
  2. How much vaccine has the United States Government contracted, and paid, for? 
  3. How much vaccine does the United States Government have a contract option to purchase, and with which manufacturers?
    1. How much funding is available to make these purchases?
    2. How much more funding, above the amount described in 3(a), is needed to exercise all contract options in full?
    3. How much more funding, above the amount described in 3(a), is needed to purchase the number of doses described in 1?

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