President Donald Trump plans to take a victory lap Tuesday as the U.S. grows ever closer to approving two COVID-19 vaccine candidates for Emergency Use Authorization.
Trump will appear live at the White House Tuesday at an "Operation Warp Speed Vaccine Summit," where senior administration officials say he will encourage Americans to get vaccinated when the drugs become available and thank operation leaders for their work in approving and delivering the vaccines.
The pending authorization of vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna marks a key turning point in the pandemic and offers a glimpse at a return to normalcy.
Their approval also marks a medical miracle — the development of the drugs took less than a year, shattering the previous record of vaccine development by nearly three full years.
But Trump's event is being held just hours after reports surfaced that his administration declined the opportunity to purchase an additional 100 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine candidate — a move that could further delay the U.S. push for herd immunity against COVID-19, as Pfizer must now fill substantial orders for vaccines from other countries.
Trump plans to sign an executive order that will attempt to give the U.S. priority in getting vaccines ahead of other countries. However, the order does not appear to have legal teeth.
When asked about the order on ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday, Dr. Moncef Slaoui — Operation Warp Speed's chief vaccine adviser — said he could not explain the order and chose not to comment.
BREAKING: Pressed by @GStephanopoulos to explain Pres. Trump's executive order prioritizing Americans’ access to COVID-19 vaccines before the United States helps other countries, "Operation Warp Speed" Chief Science Adviser Dr. Moncef Slaoui says, "Frankly I don't know." pic.twitter.com/Wk7ElJKDaw— Good Morning America (@GMA) December 8, 2020
Trump's event is taking place amid the deadliest week of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. The country is currently losing more than 2,000 people a day to the virus and is reporting about 200,000 new infections each day. Hospitalizations linked to COVID-19 are at an all-time high, and officials say the country is not yet experiencing the full brunt of the expected spread of the virus that took place during the Thanksgiving holiday.