By Jim Carlton 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday asked Pfizer Inc. if it would sell its Covid-19 vaccine directly to New York state, to help alleviate a shortfall of federally allocated doses that he blames on the Trump administration.

In a letter to Pfizer Chairman and Chief Executive Albert Bourla, the Democratic governor said he was appealing to the company directly after Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar failed to deliver on a commitment to increase the doses to New York state. Mr. Cuomo's request is believed to be the first time a governor has attempted to bypass the federal government and get a state its own supply of vaccine.

The governor said the state received 250,000 doses this week -- 50,000 fewer than last week -- even after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expanded the population eligible to get a dose, to people age 65 and up.

With about seven million New Yorkers now eligible, Mr. Cuomo said it would take as long as seven months to vaccinate them all at the current supply. The state has recorded more than 33,000 Covid-19 deaths, the highest in the nation.

"It is abundantly clear that these vaccines are the weapons that will finally win the war against Covid-19," Mr. Cuomo said in the letter to Pfizer, which is based in New York. "But with hospitalizations and deaths increasing across the country this winter, we are in a footrace with the virus, and we will lose unless we dramatically increase the number of doses getting to New Yorkers."

Mr. Cuomo told the CEO he believed Pfizer wasn't bound by commitments that the other major vaccine provider, Moderna Inc., made as part of President Trump's Operation Warp Speed, and could sell directly to the state.

Pfizer spokeswoman Jerica Pitts said the company "is open" to a broader collaboration model that would help expedite the distribution. However, she said federal approval would be needed for any direct sales to states.

Health and Human Services officials weren't immediately available for comment.

Write to Jim Carlton at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 18, 2021 15:38 ET (20:38 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.