Azar Says Pfizer 'Very Much Part' of Operation Warp Speed after It Distanced Itself from Trump Program

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar has said pharmaceutical company Pfizer is "very much part" of Operation Warp Speed after the COVID-19 vaccine maker distanced itself from the Trump administration program.

Azar made the comments on CNBC's Squawk Box on Tuesday, after Kathrin Jansen, the head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, told The New York Times it was "never part" of Operation Warp Speed. Launched in May, the effort aims to speed up the creation and distribution of vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tools amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Health Secretary told CNBC: "I don't know why they [Pfizer] made that [statement] originally. I've got a 2 billion contract for 100 million doses and an option for 500 million more that says they're very much part of Operation Warp Speed." The U.S. struck the $1.95 billion deal with Pfizer in July.

"We assisted them with ingredients, we're assisting them with distribution syringes, needles, dry ice for shipment, distribution, planning," he said.

Following Jansen's comments, the company clarified that it is involved in Operation Warp Speed as a supplier, but did not receive government funding. A spokesperson for Pfizer said on Monday in a statement seen by Newsweek they did not accept money for research and development from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, which is an office of the Department of Health and Human Services.

On Monday, Pfizer reported that its COVID-19 shot was 90 percent effective in preventing the disease, a significant step in efforts to tackle the pandemic.

This was followed by Trump administration officials and allies linking the program to the results. Vice President Mike Pence broke his silence following President Trump's defeat in the 2020 election to tweet: "Thanks to the public-private partnership forged by President @realDonaldTrump, @pfizer announced its Coronavirus Vaccine trial is EFFECTIVE, preventing infection in 90% of its volunteers."

Nikkie Haley, Trump's former ambassador to the UN, thanked the president and Operation Warp Speed in a tweet.

In September, Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla told CBS News the company did not want funding for research and development in order to "liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy."

Bourla said receiving money "always comes with strings," and went on to say that he wanted to "keep Pfizer out of politics."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar,covid,getty
Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar, is pictured at White House press briefing on on August 23, 2020 in Washington, DC. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn looks on. Azar has said Pfizer is "very much part" of Operation Warp Speed. Getty