U.S. officials are working with Pfizer Inc. to increase production capacity for the COVID-19 vaccine, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a press conference Wednesday after the drug maker said it faces production challenges.
Pfizer did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but its chief executive, Albert Bourla, told CNBC earlier this week that the company was urging the U.S. government to use defense product legislation to ease some “critical supply restrictions.” He did not elaborate on the areas in short supply.
Officials did not elaborate on what the specific production challenges were. They are well aware of the manufacturing materials and equipment needed to make vaccines based on the work they have done with other drug manufacturers.
“They have finally been informed of the various challenges they face in their manufacturing and through any mechanism, we will give them our full support to ensure that they are able to produce for the American people,” Azar said.
Pfizer partner Bioentech SE chief executive Ugur Sahin told Reuters last week that Pfizer’s 2020 production target of 100 million doses had been halved earlier this year on issues with the supply of raw materials. Since then it has been fixed and started at the manufacturing level.
Dr Moncef Sloy, chief adviser to US Operation Warp Speed, called on the US government to hold active talks with Pfizer to obtain 100 million additional doses. It contracted with Pfizer for the option of purchasing additional doses of 500 million at a previously undisclosed price.
The United States has already agreed on a 300 million vaccine dose between Pfizer / Bioentech Shot and one from Moderna Inc. in the coming months, with a total of 900 million doses from drug manufacturers developing COVID-19 vaccines, officials said Wednesday.
They said the modern vaccine was likely to be available immediately on Friday.
Carl O’Donnell and Rebecca Spalding in New York and Manas Mishra Reporting in Bangalore; Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot