HHS Secretary Azar says Pfizer is keeping the US at ‘arm’s length’ on manufacturing

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday he would like to introduce “increased visibility” into the manufacture of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, adding that the U.S. drug dealer has been fired by the federal government. keep at “arm’s length” throughout the process.

Unlike other drug dealers, Pfizer did not accept federal funding to help develop or manufacture its vaccine. Pfizer is negotiating with the U.S. to deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine as part of Operation Warp Speed, enough to protect 50 million Americans from requiring the vaccine two doses three weeks apart. Pfizer is also currently negotiating with the US for an additional 100 million doses.

“They’re part of Operation Warp Speed, but … it’s a different relationship” from government contracts with Moderna and other federal-funded pharmaceutical companies, Azar told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” in an interview Thursday morning. “We make a contract, provide (Pfizer) a secure purchase, which will allow them to make capital investments, an prospective buyer, but we do not have full visibility into their manufacturing because they have keep it a little longer. “

But Azar said he would like to see the federal government’s relationship with Pfizer change.

“We’re working with Pfizer. We’re very hopeful we’ll get more volumes in the second quarter, but they’ll need our help with the manufacturing,” he said. Azar also noted that Pfizer initially said it would take 100 million doses by the end of the year, but “would have to cut that in half to 50 million.”

Pfizer did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.

The Pfizer vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use on Friday. The first doses of Pfizer vaccine began rolling out across the U.S. over the weekend, and Americans began receiving shots Monday.

Initial doses of Pfizer vaccine are limited as manufacturing ramps up, with officials predicting that it will take months for everyone in the U.S. who wants to get the vaccine. The U.S. sent 2.9 million doses of the vaccine this week, with an additional 2 million expected next week, Army Gen. Gustave Perna, who will be in charge of logistics for Operation Warp Speed, told reporters Wednesday. The US hopes to vaccinate 20 million people by the end of the year.

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Pfizer ‘s worldwide vaccine distribution target of 50 million doses by the end of the year was only half of what it originally expected. In a statement, Pfizer said there were a number of factors that affected the number of doses measured, including a vaccine increase at an “unprecedented” pace.

When asked Thursday why Pfizer can’t deliver more doses, Azar said, the U.S. would offer to help “get a higher yield if they are willing to take our help.”

He said the issue was not about cost, saying, “We are working with them.

“It’s a very fruitful dialogue,” he said. “We will use the full power of the U.S. government to help, increase productivity as we have always been willing to do. I really hope we get to a good place there. “