Trump holds White House COVID-19 vaccine summit as Biden introduces health team

President Donald Trump on Tuesday hosted a coronavirus vaccine summit at the White House as President-elect Joe Biden, who was not invited to the event, formally introduced his health team.

The “Operation Warp Speed” summit featured Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and a host of government experts, state leaders and business executives, as the White House looks to explain that the vaccine is safe and lay out the administration’s plans to bring it to the American people. 

Trump and his aides hoped to tamp down skepticism among some Americans about the vaccines and help build the outgoing Republican president’s legacy. But it was held amid scrutiny over reports that his administration opted not to lock in the chance to buy millions of additional doses from one of the leading contenders last summer.

On Monday, the Associated Press reported that the administration committed to buying an initial 100 million doses from Pfizer, with an option to purchase as many as five times more. But the White House chose not to lock in an additional 100 million doses for delivery in the second quarter of 2021, according to people who spoke about the matter on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it publicly.

The decision could delay the delivery of a second batch of doses until Pfizer fulfills other international contracts, according to the report.

Dr. Moncef Slaoui, who is leading the government’s vaccine effort, noted the Trump administration was looking at a number of different vaccines during the summer. He told ABC's “Good Morning America” on Tuesday that “no one reasonably would buy more from any one of those vaccines because we didn’t know which one would work and which one would be better than the other.”

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health administration, told “CBS This Morning” the U.S. expects to be able to vaccinate about 20 million people this month, 20 million to 25 million in January and another 20 million to 25 million in February with the Pfizer vaccine and another vaccine from drugmaker Moderna, assuming both receive FDA emergency authorization.

The Trump administration insists that between those two vaccines and others in the pipeline, the U.S. will be able to accommodate any American who wants to be vaccinated by the end of the second quarter of 2021.

(LEFT) President Donald Trump looks on during a ceremony presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to wrestler Dan Gable in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 7, 2020. (RIGHT) President-elect Joe Biden speaks on Novembe

On Tuesday, Trump said the expected approvals are coming before most people thought possible. “They say it’s somewhat of a miracle and I think that’s true," he declared.

“Every American who wants the vaccine will be able to get the vaccine and we think by spring we’re going to be in a position nobody would have believed possible just a few months ago,” Trump added.

Trump used Tuesday’s event to sign an executive order in which the secretary of Health and Human Services is directed to ensure that Americans have priority access to the vaccine.

A senior administration official said the order would restrict the federal government from delivering doses to other nations until there is excess supply to meet domestic demand, but it was not immediately clear what the practical impact would be.

Officials from Biden's transition team were not invited to the vaccine summit, even though they will oversee the continuation of the largest vaccination program in the nation's history once he takes office on Jan. 20.

Biden unveiled his choices for his health care team this week, with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra named as his health secretary, as well as a half dozen other key appointments. He and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris formally introduced their nominees and appointees on Tuesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, Pfizer's vaccine is expected to be endorsed by a panel of Food and Drug Administration advisers as soon as this week, with delivery of the initial 100 million doses — enough for 50 million Americans — expected in coming months.

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Representatives from both Pfizer and Moderna were not planning to attend the vaccine summit at the White House.

The FDA will meet on Moderna’s vaccine later this month. Both companies’ vaccines have been determined to be 95% effective against the virus that causes COVID-19.

This story was reported from Cincinnati. The Associated Press contributed.