- President Joseph Biden on Tuesday announced plans for the U.S. to purchase more coronavirus vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna, bringing the country's total order to 600 million doses, enough to immunize the vast majority of the U.S. population with the two-shot regimens.
- The Biden administration is seeking an additional 100 million doses from both Pfizer and Moderna after Trump administration officials exercised options in December to increase the total from each company to 200 million doses. Under the original contracts, the U.S. can buy as much as 600 million doses from Pfizer and 500 million from Moderna.
- Biden said he believes he will "soon be able to confirm" the purchases and expects delivery this summer. Moderna put out a statement confirming talks with U.S. officials for doses that would be delivered in the quarter ending Sept. 30. Pfizer said it couldn't comment on private talks with the Biden administration but is committed to doing its part to "make more shots-in-arms a reality."
With COVID-19 cases in the U.S. climbing to 25 million and new, highly contagious variants spreading around the world, the pressure to ramp up vaccination is increasingly urgent. The new purchases mean the U.S. won't "leave anything on the table," Biden said at the White House Tuesday, although any new supply wouldn't be available until later this year.
Biden said his administration is employing the Defense Production Act to speed production of vaccines and pledged to reimburse states using the National Guard in the effort to fight the virus.
“This is a wartime undertaking,” Biden said. “It's not hyperbole.”
The U.S. has also preordered vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca and Novavax, but vaccine candidates from those companies are still under development. Crucial trial results are expected shortly from each company.
At present, vaccine demand is outpacing availability in many parts of the U.S. In some cases, local jurisdictions are struggling to set up systems for allocating vaccine doses to eligible citizens, while in other parts of the country, local leaders are clamoring for more supply.
Biden promised to increase transparency about the number of doses pouring out to local jurisdictions so they can better plan for distribution. The administration also said it would increase the weekly allocation to states, tribes and territories to 10 million doses from 8.6 million doses for at least the next three weeks.
To date, the federal government has distributed 44 million doses, and about 24 million doses have been administered. Officials say health-care workers and residents of long-term care facilities should get first priority for the vaccines, followed by essential workers and people 75 and over.
The guidelines currently extend only to people 16 and over, because the vaccines have not yet been fully tested in younger individuals. The Pfizer vaccine has been approved for emergency use for people as young as 16, and Moderna's version is cleared for people as young as 18.