New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday asked Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla for the ability to buy Covid-19 vaccine doses directly from the company. But the company in a statement said the Department of Health and Human Services would need to approve such a model first.
The request comes after an alarmingly slow start to the national vaccine rollout, with the country millions of injections short of the Trump administration's initial projections. As of Jan. 15, the U.S. had distributed more than 31 million doses and administered just over 12 million. Health officials had hoped to inject 20 million Americans by the end of 2020.
Cuomo, a Democrat, blamed the Trump administration for failing to send enough vaccine doses to his state. This week, he said, New York would receive 250,000 doses — 50,000 fewer than the week before.
In his letter to Bourla, Cuomo suggested Pfizer should be able to sell directly to his state, bypassing federal agencies, since Pfizer is "not bound by commitments that Moderna made as part of Operation Warp Speed."
"The company's decision to opt out of Operation Warp Speed, which the Biden administration plans to overhaul, puts it in a unique situation that could help us save lives right here in New York," Cuomo wrote.
Pfizer told CNBC that model would first have to be cleared under the emergency use authorization granted by the Food and Drug Administration for the drug's use.
The company said in a statement it "is open to collaborating with HHS on a distribution model that gives as many Americans as possible access to our vaccine as quickly as possible. However, before we can sell directly to State governments, HHS would need to approve that proposal based on the EUA granted to Pfizer by the FDA."
The HHS slammed Cuomo, accusing him of trying to "cut to the front of the line at the expense of fellow jurisdictions." The agency said in a statement that New York appears to have administered more than half of the doses it already received from the government and could therefore "nearly double its vaccinations with what it already has on the shelf."
"These doses have already been bought and paid for by the American taxpayer, and it would be unfair to ask Americans to pay twice in order to foot the cost of Governor Cuomo's hasty decision-making," a HHS spokesperson said in a statement.
"Our top priority is maximizing the availability of safe and effective vaccines in a manner which is responsible, fair and equitable for all Americans, not just to those in New York State."