Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a board member at Pfizer, told CNBC on Tuesday that the Trump administration had rejected the company’s offers to provide additional doses of its coronavirus vaccine to the US in 2021.
The government agreed to a contract with Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech for 100 million doses of their Covid-19 vaccine in July if it was found to be safe and effective. The Food and Drug Administration will meet on Thursday to review the companies’ emergency application. Gottlieb spoke before the agency released the companies’ clinical trial data on Tuesday that didn’t reveal any specific safety concerns.
If approved, Pfizer’s entire shipment of vaccines made at its Michigan manufacturing facility in December and the first quarter of 2021 will go to the US, Gottlieb said on Squawk Box. Under the July deal, the government could purchase an additional 500 million cans.
“Pfizer offered the US government an additional grant from this facility on several occasions, basically the second quarter grant, only after the interim dates were released and we knew this vaccine appeared to be effective,” he told Gottlieb, who previously headed the FDA in the Trump administration from 2017 to 2019.
Gottlieb, whose comments corroborate a Monday New York Times report, believes the U.S. government likely turned down Pfizer’s offer because it wanted to ensure it diversified the number of companies it has option contracts with.
For example, there is an agreement for 100 million doses of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine. The Massachusetts-based biotech company has developed the only other vaccine currently awaiting FDA approval. Johnson & Johnson also signed a deal with the Trump administration for 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine in August.
“I think they are betting that more than one vaccine will be approved and that there will be more vaccines on the market,” said Gottlieb. “And maybe that could be why they didn’t get that extra $ 100 million option agreement that wouldn’t necessarily have required them to pay any money. It was just an agreement that they would buy those vaccines. Pfizer has it so done. ” went ahead and made some deals with other countries to sell them some of this vaccine in the second quarter of 2021. “
CNBC reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services to comment on Gottlieb’s comments. In a statement later posted on Twitter, an HHS spokesman said the department remains “confident that we will have enough doses in our portfolio of multiple vaccines for every American who wants a vaccine by the end of the second quarter of 2021.”
“We have and are negotiating additional doses with Pfizer,” the statement also said. However, the HHS spokesman said the Trump administration’s vaccine development program, Operation Warp Speed, has never “turned down an offer from Pfizer for any number of millions of fixed-delivery, fixed-quantity doses.”
On Tuesday, people in the UK became the first to receive the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine outside of a clinical trial after UK regulators gave approval last week. The UK government has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine, which is enough for 20 million people since it takes two shots.
President Donald Trump signed an ordinance on Tuesday seeking to give Americans priority over Covid-19 vaccines his administration has launched. The government has given billions of dollars to drug makers to help develop and manufacture vaccines.
“I don’t know what the judicial authorities are. I suspect there are authorities that the administration could invoke that would violate some agreements that Pfizer or other companies may have made with other countries,” Gottlieb said before the Signing.
“But remember that the countries the vaccine has been sold to are our close allies. That makes an offer [Michigan] Plant coming to the US in the second quarter. It’s just not the full range, “he added.” Some of this was promised to other countries after being offered to the United States several times. “
Disclosure: Scott Gottlieb is a CNBC employee and a member of the boards of directors of Pfizer, the genetic testing startup Tempus, and the biotech company Illumina. Gottlieb is also co-chair of Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings and Royal Caribbean’s Healthy Sail Panel.