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Cuomo wants New York to buy Covid vaccine directly from Pfizer

The federal guidelines made more people eligible for shots but short-changed state on supply, Gov. Cuomo charged

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the Trump Administration has failed to deliver enough Covid-19 vaccines to his state, so he wants to buy more doses directly from the manufacturer.

Impatient with the sluggish pace of the vaccine rollout and claiming that the president has short-changed New York, Cuomo has asked Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla whether it would be possible to cut out the middle man.

No can do, Pfizer replied.

While the company is ready to collaborate with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on ways to “quickly distribute its vaccine to as many Americans as possible,” it still needs the okay from the government.

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A fierce critic of President Donald Trump’s pandemic response, Cuomo is not the first Democratic governor to float the idea of buying vaccines directly from Pfizer. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan proposed that last week.

Cuomo argued that since Pfizer, the first drugmaker to produce a vaccine, was not part of the administration’s Operation Warp Speed program it’s not required to release its doses solely through Washington.

“The company’s decision to opt out of Operation Warp Speed, which the Biden administration plans to overhaul, puts it in a unique situation that could help us save lives right here in New York,” Cuomo wrote.

Noting that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently bumped the number of New Yorkers eligible for a shot from 5 million to 7 million “practically overnight,” Cuomo said at the same time the CDC has reduced his state’s supply of vaccines from 300,000 last week to 250,000 this week.

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Later, during a news conference Monday, Cuomo acknowledged that no other state has bought vaccines directly from the drug maker but said “my job is to pursue every avenue.” He gave no details on how many doses he hoped to buy or how he would pay for it.

“First things first,” Cuomo said. “First they have to agree.”

Trump had promised that 20 million Americans would be vaccinated by the end of 2020, but as of Monday just 12.2 million had gotten their first dose, according to the most recent CDC figures.

Public health and chain supply experts, however, said a shortage of vaccines isn’t the only reason it’s taking so long to get the shots into American arms. The federal government has left the distribution details up to local governments which were no match for the overwhelming demand. And federal guidelines meant to get the most vulnerable vaccinated first have reportedly resulted in thousands of doses going to waste.