As vaccinations pick up across the state today, there is uncertainty over whether Florida will be getting hundreds-of-thousands more doses of the Pfizer vaccine it says it was expecting through the end of the year.
"For the rest of December, initially we were going to get 200,000 next week and then 250,000 the following week, last week of December, " Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Wednesday. "Then they said, 'You have none, necessarily. We have production issues.'"
The heads of Operation Warp Speed, the federal government's vaccination effort, echoed the governor's statement.
While other companies -- including Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca -- were more integrated with the government in the development and production phases of the effort, Pfizer declined that level of hands-on government involvement, they said.
"It's a more arms-length relationship there," said Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services. "We have recently been informed by them -- finally -- of various challenges they might have in their manufacturing."
A Pfizer spokeswoman tells NBC 6 the governor and the feds got it wrong.
"Pfizer has not had any production issues with its COVID-19 vaccine, and no shipments containing the vaccine are on hold or delayed," the company said. "We are continuing to dispatch orders to the locations specified by the U.S. government. We are on track to produce 50 million doses by year’s end and 1.3 billion in 2021."
But Azar said the 50 million by year's end was half what the company was projecting.
"They’ve made significant commitments to us and others," he said. "Their manufacturing, as you know, they ended up coming short half of what they thought they would be able to produce and announced they would be able to produce just in the year 2020."
Pfizer and the government are currently negotiating the terms of an option to provide more vaccine, and Azar said the government is assisting the company so that it can manufacture as many doses as possible.
Florida this week did get 180,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, developed with the German company BioNTech.
And it is hoping to get 370,000 doses of Moderna vaccine next week, assuming its gets FDA approval this week.
While the government did decline earlier this year to order another 100 million Pfizer doses, it's now unclear whether the company could have satisfied that order as well.
Dr. Moncef Slaoui, of Operation Warp Speed, defended the decision earlier to pass on doubling the Pfizer order, saying, "Frankly it wouldn’t make sense whatsoever to preorder more from one vaccine manufacturer than any other one before we knew the vaccine works."
Now that it appears it does work, Florida -- and the world -- can't get enough.
And DeSantis said it's possible Pfizer could come through with something by year's end.
"This is something that’s exciting. We feel good, better about Pfizer next week than we did yesterday or the day before, but regardless this mission is going to be a top priority," he said, posing today with one of the first nursing home residents to get the vaccine.
"If we can get through these folks, continue with the healthcare workers, as we get more Moderna in the future and more Pfizer, even perhaps as late as the last week of December, then we can start working on getting our elderly population who are not in these facilities and that's going to be really, really good to focus it on where the higher risks are."