The Biden administration is working to purchase an additional 200 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, a move that could provide enough doses for nearly every American to get fully inoculated by the end of the summer, President Joe Biden said Tuesday.
The government is seeking 100 million doses from Pfizer and 100 million from Moderna, an order that would be made available over the summer. This is in addition to the 400 million combined doses the companies had already committed to providing to the U.S., Biden said. He said he expects to be able to confirm the purchase soon.
"It will be enough to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans to beat the pandemic," Biden said.
The agreement will lessen the country's reliance on getting additional vaccines on the market from other manufacturers. The Trump administration had passed up on purchasing more vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna and was instead relying on additional vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca coming to market. Johnson & Johnson said it will release data for its single-dose vaccine in the coming days.
"We can't speak to the Trump administration, but what we can say is it is our philosophy, given the nature of this emergency and the speed with which the virus needs to be addressed, to procure enough supply as we need to vaccinate Americans and to give Americans the confidence we can do that," a senior administration official said.
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In the near term, the supply of vaccines being shipped to states is set to increase by about 20 percent to 10 million doses per week for the next three weeks, the official said. The federal government will also begin letting states know how many doses they will be receiving at least three weeks in advance — addressing complaints by governors that they aren't able to plan and schedule appointments.
The Biden administration has begun using the Defense Production Act to buy more of a specialty syringe that can extract more doses per vaccine vial and plans to use the war-time law for other raw materials, like lipid nanoparticles and bioreactor bags, if necessary, the official said.
But the supply chain for those relatively rare materials is already "somewhat fragile" and there is a risk of disrupting production of other healthcare products, the official said. The U.S. is also having to compete with other countries for the same scarce resources.
The official said the administration isn't holding back doses aside from a small emergency reserve, but states have been holding back the doses they receive at different levels to ensure there is enough available for people to receive their second dose.
State and local officials have been complaining in recent weeks that while they have the ability to give more vaccinations and there is high demand from the public, they lack the supply of vaccines.
As of Jan. 26, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 23.5 million doses were administered and more than 3.4 million were people fully vaccinated. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC Tuesday that the city has the capacity to administer 500,000 doses a week, but hasn't been able to because it is waiting on more vaccines from the federal government.