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Arizona health expert slams idea of Pfizer selling vaccines to states

FILE - In this Jan. 12, 2021, file photo a pharmacist draws saline while preparing a dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in Sacramento, Calif. could emerge. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, Pool, File)

PHOENIX — A top Arizona health official is slamming the idea of Pfizer selling its COVID-19 vaccines directly to states, a concept floated by New York’s governor.

“You’re going to have the states that have a budget surplus outbidding the states that don’t,” Arizona Public Health Association Director Will Humble said.  “You know who suffers when that happens? Low-income people.”

According to ABC News, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo inquired about Pfizer selling vaccines directly to the Empire State, bypassing the federal government. The drugmaker said it would need approval from the Health and Human Services Department to make such an arrangement.

KTAR News 92.3 FM reached out to Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s office to see if he was exploring similar action, but calls were not returned.

Humble, who was previously the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the federal government is doing a good job by ensuring safe supplies and fair sharing among the states.

“But it’s counties and states that need to put together vaccination plans,” Humble said. “The counties are public health retailers. Our state health department is our public health wholesaler.”

Humble said they’re responsible for hiccups in speedy deliveries. However, they’re at the mercy of the vaccine supplies available to them.

He believes states like Arizona still struggle to distribute the doses they get.

“A lot of it had to do with a software system that people had to use to make appointments that wasn’t working properly, that had a lot of bugs in the system,” Humble said. “My understanding is that it’s getting better.”

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden is still promising 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses in his first 100 days in office. Humble thinks he can pull it off.

“If I was President Biden, I’d have my FDA commissioner in my office asking him specific questions about the next two vaccines, which are AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson,” Humble said.

Pfizer and Moderna’s shots need storage in well below freezing temperatures. The other makers’ shots do not.

“They could go into pharmacies, doctors offices, and community health centers with no problem at all,” Humble said. “There’s no freezing. They’re refrigerator vaccines. The lot sizes are small.”

However, Biden must depend on others to keep his promise: that the FDA will find the new vaccines safe, and that all levels of government can quickly get them into arms — including the second booster shot.

That means Arizona will need 50,000 shots a day through the spring.

Humble hopes the FDA will approve the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines next month.

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