U.S. Rejected Multiple Offers to Buy More Pfizer COVID Vaccine Shots, ex-FDA Chief Says

The U.S. turned down multiple offers from Pfizer to buy more doses of its COVID vaccine contender, a former head of the country's drug regulator has said.

Scott Gottlieb, a Pfizer board member who served as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner from 2017 - 2019, told CNBC on Tuesday that the U.S. appeared to be relying on other vaccine agreements in addition to the 100 million doses of the Pfizer shot that it has ordered at a cost of about $1.95 billion.

The vaccine contender, developed with German company BioNTech and called BNT162b2, could be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19, Pfizer announced on November 9 following incomplete clinical trials.

Speaking to Squawk Box, Gottlieb said the drugmaker had "gone ahead and entered into agreement with other countries" after their offers were rejected.

"Pfizer did offer up an additional allotment coming out of that plant, basically the second-quarter allotment, to the United States government multiple times and as recently as after the interim data came out and we knew this vaccine looked to be effective," said Gottlieb.

The rejection of further supplies was first reported by New York Times on Monday.

Other countries have since secured millions more doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Two days after Pfizer's announcement, the EU revealed that it had secured 200 million doses of the potential vaccine, and had requested a further 100 million.

The Pfizer vaccine is already being rolled in the U.K., however it has not been approved for use in the U.S. FDA officials are set to meet on Friday to discuss whether or not to rubber stamp the vaccine.

The U.S. government has other deals in place with drug manufacturers, which are working to develop a vaccine.

It has secured 100 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, which the company has said has an efficacy of 94.5 percent, for a sum of $1.525 billion. Under the agreement, the U.S. would also have the option to obtain up to an additional 400 million doses.

About 20 million doses are expected to be available for the country by the end of the year, the company has said.

Another deal has reportedly been struck with Johnson & Johnson for 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine provided it passes safety tests.

"I think they're betting that more than one vaccine is going to get authorized and there will be more vaccines on the market," Gottlieb said.

"And that, perhaps, could be why they didn't take up that additional 100 million option agreement, which wouldn't really have required them necessarily to front money. It was just an agreement that they would purchase those vaccines. So Pfizer has gone ahead and entered into some agreements with other countries to sell them some of that vaccine in the second quarter of 2021."

The Department of Health and Human Services has been approached for comment.

Pfizer coronavirus vaccine
Stock pic: An illustration picture shows vials with "COVID-19 Vaccine" stickers attached, with the logo of U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer, on November 17, 2020. The FDA has confirmed that the U.S. has turned down an offer to purchase more doses of the company's vaccine. JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images