Trump to order priority access to US Covid-19 vaccines for Americans

Mr Trump has followed an "America First" motto as president, and his aides want to make clear that the same policy is at work with vaccine distribution. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - US President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Tuesday (Dec 8) to ensure that priority access for Covid-19 vaccines procured by the US government is given to the American people before assisting other nations, senior administration officials said on Monday.

The Trump administration is confident it will have enough vaccine to inoculate everyone who wants a vaccine by the end of the second quarter of 2021, one official said, disputing a New York Times story that the government declined when Pfizer Inc offered in late summer to sell more vaccine doses to the United States.

Mr Trump, who has faced sharp criticism for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, is eager to take credit for the speedy development and distribution of a vaccine.

Officials said the executive order would set up a framework for US government agencies to help other countries procure the vaccine once demand in the United States was met.

It was unclear why an executive order was needed to ensure that the vaccines would be distributed first in the United States.

Mr Trump has followed an "America First" motto as president, and his aides want to make clear that the same policy is at work with vaccine distribution.

The White House is holding a summit on Tuesday to highlight that and to explain plans for distribution through Mr Trump's Operation Warp Speed, which has been organising the effort.

Vaccine developers Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc will not attend.

The New York Times reported that Pfizer may not be able to provide more of its vaccine to the United States until next June because of its commitments to other countries.

An administration official noted that Pfizer's vaccine was still in clinical trials last summer and that the government secured advanced deals to acquire multiple other vaccine candidates.

"Anyone who wanted to sell us, guaranteed without an EUA (FDA emergency authorization) approval, hundreds of millions of doses back in July and August was just not going to get the government's money," the person added.

About 85 per cent of long-term care and assisted living facilities around the country had signed up for a mobile vaccination service provided by CVS and Walgreens, the official said.

The US government was concerned about cyber attacks related to the vaccine and had protected itself against them, he added.

Pfizer spokeswoman Sharon Castillo said: "The US government placed an initial order of 100 million doses for Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine, and Pfizer is ready to begin shipping initial doses soon after receiving an Emergency Use Authorisation from the FDA. Any additional doses beyond the 100 million are subject to a separate and mutually acceptable agreement."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told NBC News the US government had the option to purchase an additional 500 doses of the Pfizer vaccine but declined to say whether the administration was pursuing that option.

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