New York Seeks to Buy Vaccines Directly From Pfizer -- 2nd Update
By Jim Carlton and Melanie Grayce West
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
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
Last week, the governors of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota
sent a letter to Mr. Azar urging him to grant permission for states
to directly purchase doses of the vaccine. Mr. Cuomo's request
marks a rare attempt 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
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.
A Health and Human Services spokesperson said late Monday that
New York has only administered about half of the doses it has
received from the federal government.
"Given that the state could nearly double its vaccinations with
what it already has on the shelf, we are perplexed as to why
Governor Cuomo is trying to circumvent a long-planned federal
allocation system by attempting to cut to the front of the line at
the expense of fellow jurisdictions," the spokesperson said.
The supply problem, which affects states across the U.S., stems
from a shortage of vaccines flowing from the federal government,
governors have said. A rapid expansion of who is eligible for a
vaccine was supposed to be met with an increased allocation of
vaccine from a reserve of doses held by the government.
But several governors said Friday that it turned out there
wasn't a ready supply from the reserve, even as states, counties
and cities rapidly expanded their own infrastructure to vaccinate
and the pool of people eligible for the vaccine grew.
In a press conference Monday, Mr. Cuomo said only 900,000 people
have had their first of two required doses, out of a state of 20
million people. "Our allocation is nowhere near enough," Mr. Cuomo
As a result, one of New York's most populous counties will
cancel Covid-19 vaccination clinics, citing a dramatically reduced
supply of available vaccines.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz on Saturday canceled
community vaccination clinics set to happen up to Wednesday. Erie
County includes the city of Buffalo, the second-largest city in the
The county will get only 1,700 doses of the vaccine this week,
compared with last week when it got 4,200 doses and previous weeks
when 7,500 doses were shipped, Mr. Poloncarz said. The cancellation
affects thousands of people.
"Everyone is getting less," Mr. Poloncarz said during a Saturday
press conference, adding that "not a single drop of vaccine" has
been wasted by the county.
Write to Jim Carlton at email@example.com and Melanie Grayce
West at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
January 19, 2021 09:11 ET (14:11 GMT)
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