Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla hasn’t received his company’s Covid-19 vaccine shot yet, saying Monday he and other executives will not “cut the line” as U.S. officials kick off a massive effort to distribute the vaccine across the country.
The vaccine, which Pfizer developed in partnership with Germany-based BioNTech, is the first approved for emergency use in the U.S. to prevent Covid-19. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the vaccine for use in people 16 and older, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday officially recommended its use.
However, there are limited doses available and as such, the CDC has recommended states prioritize health-care workers and long-term care residents for initial distribution.
While Bourla’s company developed the vaccine, he is not a frontline health-care worker himself. He said he’s also 59 and in relatively good health, so it’s not entirely appropriate for him to receive the vaccine before other people who need it more. If he was vaccinated on camera, he said it might help increase the public’s willingness to receive it, citing Pfizer’s internal research. But he emphasized that “none of the executives and board members will cut the line.”
Bourla also urged Americans to “trust science” and encouraged people to get vaccinated when appropriate, based on their age and occupation.
“This is a vaccine that was developed without cutting corners from a company with 171 years of credentials,” Bourla said Monday on “Squawk Box.” “This is a vaccine that was developed in the spotlight, in the daylight, with all the data being put in a server.”
Bourla’s comments come as the first deliveries of doses are set to arrive at more than 100 of the country’s 636 pre-determined distribution sites. Some frontline health-care workers are due to be vaccinated as soon as Monday morning and vaccination is set to begin among long-term care residents next week, according to Operation Warp Speed officials.
It’s a monumental logistical challenge. The federal government has partnered with UPS, FedEx, McKesson, CVS, Walgreens, among others, to help distribute the vaccine and actually administer it. But state immunization officials have warned that the so-called last-mile delivery of the vaccine will be the most challenging, and states are largely responsible for that effort. State officials have repeatedly called on the federal government to provide more funding to hasten the effort.
The vaccine could not arrive soon enough. The U.S. is approaching the heart-wrenching milestone of 300,000 deaths caused by Covid-19. Top U.S. health officials, including CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, have warned that the rate of death is unlikely to slow for months, even as a vaccine is rolled out. That’s because the U.S. doesn’t have enough doses to broadly vaccine throughout the population of 331 million Americans, and needs to prioritize the country’s most vulnerable and essential.
Alex Azar, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, which has partnered with the Department of Defense to run Operation Warp Speed, said Monday on the “TODAY” show that the general population could begin getting vaccinations by the end of February or early March. Dr. Celine Gounder, a member of President-elect Joe Biden’s Covid-19 advisory board, later Monday called it a “fairly optimistic timeline” on CNN.