The federal contract signed in July called for Pfizer to deliver 100 million doses by March at a cost of $19.50 a dose. It gave the government the option to request 100 million to 500 million additional doses. It was one of six contracts that the Trump administration signed with vaccine makers in a strategy intended to hedge its bets and maximize the chances of success.
Accounts differ over the nature of the discussions between Pfizer and federal officials about whether to lock in extra doses. Several people said that during late summer or early fall, Pfizer officials repeatedly warned the Trump administration that demand could vastly outstrip supply and urged it to pre-order more doses, but were turned down.
One senior administration official, who spoke to reporters on Monday on the condition of anonymity, said that any company offering hundreds of millions of doses before it had proof its vaccine worked “was just not going to get the government’s money.”
Another person familiar with the negotiations said talks about possible additional doses began in early October. Michael Pratt, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, declined to comment on the discussions, but said that “an important part of any negotiation is having established timelines for delivery and production amounts.”
In a statement, Pfizer, an American company with headquarters in New York, said that “any additional doses beyond the 100 million are subject to a separate and mutually acceptable agreement,” and that “the company is not able to comment on any confidential discussions that may be taking place with the U.S. government.”
The decision by the White House to issue the executive order was reported by Fox News.
So far, only Pfizer has won emergency approval from a Western government. British regulators authorized it less than a week ago, after late-stage clinical trial results showed the vaccine was about 95 percent effective. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to follow suit in the United States as early as this weekend.
The agency may also soon approve another vaccine developed by Moderna, a small firm based in Cambridge, Mass. But doses supplied by Pfizer and Moderna will initially be extremely scarce — enough to vaccinate about 22.5 million people before the end of the year — and federal officials have said vaccines will not be widely available to Americans until well into next year, even as the daily death toll continues to climb with more than 280,000 lives lost to date.