WASHINGTON — The government is working to buy 200 million more doses of Covid-19 vaccines, a move that could provide enough doses to fully inoculate nearly every American by the end of the summer, President Joe Biden said Tuesday.
The government is seeking 100 million doses from Pfizer/BioNTech and 100 million from Moderna, an order that would be made available over the summer. They would be in addition to the 400 million combined doses the companies had already committed to provide the U.S., Biden said. He said he expects to be able to confirm the purchase soon.
"It will be enough to fully vaccinate 300 million Americans to beat the pandemic," Biden said.
The agreement would lessen the country's reliance on getting additional doses on the market from other manufacturers. The Trump administration had passed on buying more doses from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna and was instead betting that additional vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca would come to market. Johnson & Johnson said it will release data for its single-dose vaccine in the coming days.
"We can't speak to the Trump administration, but what we can say is it is our philosophy, given the nature of this emergency and the speed with which the virus needs to be addressed, to procure enough supply as we need to vaccinate Americans and to give Americans the confidence we can do that," a senior administration official said.
In the near term, the supplies being shipped to states are set to increase by about 20 percent, to 10 million doses a week, for the next three weeks, the official said. The federal government will also begin letting states know how many doses they will be getting at least three weeks in advance — addressing complaints by governors that they aren't able to plan and schedule appointments.
The Biden administration has begun using the Defense Production Act to buy more of a special syringe that can extract more doses per vaccine vial, and it plans to use the wartime law for other raw materials, like lipid nanoparticles and bioreactor bags, if necessary, the official said.
But the supply chain for those relatively rare materials is "somewhat fragile," and there is a risk of disrupting production of other health care products, the official said. The U.S. also has to compete with other countries for the same resources.
The official said the administration isn't holding back doses aside from a small emergency reserve, but states have been holding back the doses they receive at different levels to ensure that enough is available for people to get their second shots.
State and local officials have been complaining in recent weeks that while they can give more shots and that demand from the public is high, they lack the supply of vaccines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that as of Tuesday, 23.5 million doses were administered and that more than 3.4 million people were fully vaccinated. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday on MSNBC that the city has the capacity to administer 500,000 doses a week but that it hasn't been able to do so because it is waiting on more vaccine supplies from the federal government.