Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech will supply 100 million more doses of their coronavirus vaccine to the United States by this summer after protracted negotiations over how much the companies could deliver, given their commitments to other nations.
The $1.95 billion agreement doubles the overall U.S. order for the vaccine to 200 million doses. Pfizer and BioNTech said they can supply 70 million doses by June 30, 2021, with the remaining 30 million doses delivered by the end of July.
The expanded agreement comes one week after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters that Pfizer was dealing with “manufacturing challenges,” a charge the company vehemently denied. “Pfizer has not had any production issues with its COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed,” a spokesperson said.
Critics including Senate Democrats have questioned why the government had not expanded its purchasing agreement with Pfizer earlier this fall, after reports that the manufacturer would not be able to supply more doses until mid-summer because of its deals with other countries. The U.S. has an option to buy up to 500 million shots from Pfizer, and concern has bubbled that worldwide demand for vaccines could leave a gap in U.S. supplies after the initial stock.
“This new federal purchase can give Americans even more confidence that we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by June 2021,” Azar said in a statement Wednesday.
In addition to the 200 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, the United States has also ordered 200 million doses of a vaccine from Moderna. Because each of the vaccines must be given as two shots, those orders are enough to treat 200 million people.
It is unclear how Pfizer and BioNTech will ramp up manufacturing to account for 100 million additional doses.
The companies have already said they can supply roughly 20 million doses to the government this month. States’ confusion over their supplies last week led Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of the administration’s vaccine accelerator Operation Warp Speed, to take the blame for smaller orders shipped out nationwide.