By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday mandating COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by US companies be first distributed to Americans.
In announcing the action at the White House, Trump said his administration is "working very closely with other nations also to get the vaccines out to other nations," but said his order would "ensure the United States government prioritizes" distribution is first allocated to Americans.
The president threatened to invoke a 1950 law known as the Defense Production Act should companies refuse to heed the order, but said he did not think it would be necessary. The act allows a president to direct private firms to produce materials deemed vital to the national defense.
The order comes just days before the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to sign off on an emergency use authorization for Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine candidate with a second vaccine from Moderna expected to follow about a week thereafter.
Pfizer has reportedly told US officials that it cannot supply additional doses of its vaccine until June or July, in part, because orders from other countries have cut down supply, according to the Washington Post. The US has already ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine.
Gen. Paul Ostrowski, who is Trump's point person for vaccine distribution, said he was not concerned about the potential impacts on the US's vaccine distribution.
"It’s clear that Pfizer made plans with other countries. Many have been announced. We understand those pieces," he said during an interview with the Post.
Both of the vaccines have shown a remarkably high level of efficacy at around 95%. Still, it could be months before either or both are widely available, with the US expected to prioritize distribution to the elderly and health workers before expanding access.
Trump said he believes tens of millions of doses of the vaccines will be available in December while hundreds of millions of others "will quickly follow."
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two separate doses either three or four weeks apart, respectively.