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White House press secretary Jen Psaki was confronted by a New York Times reporter on Tuesday over the Biden administration crediting themselves for brokering a deal that will allow all American adults to have access to the coronavirus vaccine within a matter of months.
What is the background?
President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that every American adult would have access to the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of May.
The remarkable feat was made possible by a new deal between pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co. and Johnson & Johnson, manufacture of the new one-shot regimen awarded emergency authorization by the Food and Drug Administration last Saturday.
During his press conference, Biden credited his administration for brokering the deal and chided his predecessor.
“We are now on track to have enough vaccine supply for every adult in America by the end of May,” Biden said. “When we came into office, the prior administration had contracted not nearly enough vaccine to cover adults in America”
“We rectified that,” Biden claimed.
What happened at the press briefing?
New York Times White House correspondent Michael Shear asked Psaki how the Biden administration can take credit for the deal when, in fact, the New York Times reported about the deal in January.
“On the timing of the administration’s efforts to help pull this deal together, you said that it was within, I think, the last few weeks,” Shear began. “We wrote our first story at the New York Times about a possible partnership between Merck and J&J for manufacturing on Jan 21.”
“My understanding is that talks between those companies had been in the works before that even, in terms of, sort of, the corporate discussions between them,” Shear continued, adding, “How it is that the Biden administration deserves credit for bringing these two together, when it looks like the discussions had been under way long before you guys got here?”
In response, Psaki said the Biden administration is merely celebrating the finalization of the deal.
“Just to be clear, I’m talking about when it was finalized so that we could move it forward,” Psaki said.
“I’m only conveying what got it across the finish line, and I think it’s clear that that has only happened relatively recently. But certainly the history of conversations between Merck and J&J, long before the J&J vaccine was even approved, you know, you certainly might have more information on than I do,” she added.