White House says states can’t purchase Covid vaccine directly


Ron Klain, former White House Ebola response coordinator, speaks during a House Homeland Security Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, March 10, 2020.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Sunday that it’s not possible for U.S. states to purchase Covid-19 vaccines directly from manufacturers, as some have sought to do, under the emergency use authorization issued by the Food and Drug Administration.

“As a matter of law, this vaccine is under an emergency use authorization,” Klain told NBC’s “Meet the Press,” when asked about the requests. “I don’t think that’s possible.”

The comments come after New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo asked Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Monday to allow the state to purchase vaccines directly from the company, citing tightening supply.

Pfizer told Cuomo that it couldn’t do so under the terms of its December emergency use authorization.

The company said it was open to the idea, but “before we can sell directly to State governments, HHS would need to approve that proposal based on the EUA granted to Pfizer by the FDA.”

The Department of Health and Human Services — at that point still under Republican leadership — accused Cuomo, a Democrat, of attempting to “cut to the front of the line at the expense of fellow jurisdictions.”

Klain said that he believed governors were “understandably frustrated” by the slow pace of vaccinations to date.

The number of vaccines administered lags far behind projections that were made under President Donald Trump, though the pace has picked up in recent weeks. President Joe Biden has pledged that the U.S. will administer 100 million doses of vaccine in his first 100 days in office.

“We are going to ramp up production. We are going to ramp up distribution. We are going to work closely with governors. We are going to get this vaccine to the American people,” Klain said.

The Biden administration has pushed to increase the federal government’s role in the production and distribution of Covid-19 vaccines.

T.J. Ducklo, a White House spokesman, earlier rejected state efforts to purchase vaccines directly, saying that “we need to have a national approach to vaccinations, and must ensure states aren’t competing against each other like they did with PPE, ventilators, and tests.”

Ducklo didn’t immediately respond to an email on Sunday. The Department of Health and Human Services also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Before Biden took office, other states had asked Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services to allow them to purchase vaccines directly from the manufacturer.

The governors of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin — all Democrats — sent a letter Jan. 15 accusing the Trump administration of botching the initial vaccine roll out.

“If you are unable or unwilling to give us that supply, we urge you to grant permission for us to directly purchase vaccines so we may distribute them,” the governors wrote.

At least one of those states appears to have backtracked on the plan since Biden was inaugurated on Wednesday.

Bobby Leddy, a spokesperson for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, said in a statement provided to CBS that “we are confident that President Joe Biden will have a clear national strategy that is based in data and science to help our nation overcome this health crisis.”

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