At a time when the coronavirus pandemic is surging across the nation, Azar predicted on CNN’s “New Day” that 20 million people will be vaccinated in “the next several weeks.” He said the Trump administration is negotiating with Pfizer to secure additional doses of its vaccine and said the administration will “use every power” under the Defense Production Act to aid private companies with the massive logistical requirements of vaccinating the country.
“I want to ensure that any transition is as smooth, as professional as possible, because we are about ensuring the health and well-being of the American people and that’s what matters to me,” Azar said.
“We want to make sure that any vaccine that comes out in America has the full gold standard stamp of approval of the FDA career people,” Azar said.
Once a vaccine is approved by the FDA, the federal government would then authorize shipment of the vaccine within 24 hours and directly ship them to “wherever the governors have told us where they want it to go,” Azar told CNN.
The initial focus will be health care workers and nursing home patients, according to Azar.
“Twenty million people should get vaccinated in just the next several weeks, and then we’ll just keep rolling out vaccines through January, February, March as they come off the production lines,” Azar said.
Negotiations with Pfizer
“We guaranteed the purchase of 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine before they had initiated phase three clinical trials. They were not willing to give us a concrete date to commit to produce and deliver additional vaccines, so we secured a 500 million option for additional,” Azar said.
Azar said that the federal government is negotiating with Pfizer, but would not go into further detail, only adding that “we have options that go up to 500 million.” He also said the administration is negotiating with other pharmaceutical manufacturers about additional vaccines.
“We have, over the last couple of months, been working with Pfizer to secure their commitment and agreement to deliver additional doses under our options, by a date certain. We’re very optimistic that will happen, but I want the American people to know we will use every power we have under the Defense Production Act to make sure the American people get what they need,” he said, suggesting that the government can provide raw materials and equipment to companies to help with the rollout. It’s unclear, however, whether the administration could use the act to force companies to provide Americans with the coronavirus vaccine before other nations.
Azar defends White House Christmas parties
Asked if he was comfortable with the White House still hosting such events amid the pandemic, Azar told CNN he “felt safe” at a recent White House Christmas party he attended.
“I actually have already attended one of them, and individuals — most of the individuals — around me were wearing masks. We worked to keep distance. There was dramatically lower number of people than in past years. So I felt comfortable there. I felt safe. I wore my mask, of course, at all times,” he said.
He encouraged Americans “no matter what the setting” to “wash your hands, watch your distance, wear your face coverings if you can’t watch your distance, especially do not let your guard down in indoor settings.”