Low supplies in the face of high demand for COVID-19 vaccines have apparently pushed Andrew Cuomo, the current governor of New York, to go straight to the source . In order to speed up the vaccination process which has been languishing in recent weeks, Cuomo recently asked Pfizer to sell the doses of vaccine it needs directly to New York State.
For clarity, this request is considered an act bypassing the US federal government, because it would force Pfizer to circumvent federal Operation Warp Speed guidelines to produce and distribute approximately 300 million doses to Americans.
In support of his request, Cuomo said in a letter to Albert Bourla, CEO of New York-based Pfizer, that unlike Moderna, Pfizer is privately held, and is free from any engagement with the federal government.
He also assured that the administration of any dose obtained directly from Pfizer will comply with the stringent guidelines set by the state, while allowing the dose gap created by the outgoing federal administration to be filled. An operation aimed at achieving the goal of vaccinating 70 to 90% of New Yorkers to achieve collective immunity more quickly.
Ready to pull out his checkbook to get the Pfizer vaccine doses
At the very start of the pandemic and so far, New York is one of the US states most affected by the disease. New York has indeed recorded more than 1.24 million confirmed cases of COVID and almost 41,000 deaths so far.
According to Cuomo, this winter hospitalizations and deaths were sharply on the rise across the state, putting its citizens in a position they would lose if the number of doses intended for New Yorkers, which this week were not than 250,000, did not increase significantly.
The governor also criticized the CDC for their shift in focus which opened up eligibility requirements for 7 million New Yorkers while reducing the weekly vaccine allocation. As a result, quite a few New Yorkers were unable to get vaccinated and state and city immunization centers were overwhelmed and frustrated.
A request that requires approval from the HHS
This public chaos prompted Cuomo to take action and pull out his checkbook in an attempt to purchase supplies directly from Pfizer.
As Pfizer is willing to work with the HHS on a distribution model that will allow as many Americans as possible to access its vaccine as quickly as possible, it has not refused Cuomo's request. But he stressed, however, that he would not be able to sell his vaccine directly to individual US states without securing the endorsement of the HHS which already has its plans for supplying these valuable doses of vaccine to all states.
That said, some see Cuomo's maneuver as a strictly political intention intended to make himself visible to his fellow citizens. All the more so in this delicate period with the transition between the outgoing federal administration and the arrival of the recently elected Biden to power.