US signs $1.95 billion deal with Pfizer to manufacturer 100 million doses of potential Covid-19 vaccine
However, the vaccine will have to clear phase 3 trials and obtain emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before it is delivered to the public
The US has signed a $1.95 billion deal with American pharma giant Pfizer to make the first 100 million doses of their potential coronavirus vaccine. Under the agreement, the country will be able to acquire an additional 500 million doses. However, the vaccine will have to clear phase 3 trials and obtain emergency approval from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before it is delivered to the public.
"We just signed a contract with global pharmaceutical leader Pfizer to produce 100 million doses of vaccine starting in December of this year with an option to buy half a billion doses," US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, told Fox News. "Now, those would, of course, have to be safe and effective." If the vaccine succeeds, Americans will not be charged for it.
Earlier this week, Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced positive results after the vaccine appeared safe and induced an immune response. The team hopes to kickstart the next stage of testing by the end of July. "We've been committed to making the impossible possible by working tirelessly to develop and produce in record time a safe and effective vaccine to help bring an end to this global health crisis," Dr Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and CEO said in a statement. "We made the early decision to begin clinical work and large-scale manufacturing at our own risk to ensure that product would be available immediately if our clinical trials prove successful and an Emergency Use Authorization is granted."
Pfizer is one of the companies featured on the Trump Administration's initiative to speed up vaccines: Operation Warp Speed. According to Azar, the project will increase the odds of delivering at least one safe, effective vaccine to Americans by the end of 2020. "Depending on success in clinical trials, today's agreement will enable the delivery of approximately 100 million doses of the vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech," he said in a statement.
The HHS has awarded deals to support companies in their efforts to ramp up production. The US has invested $456 million in Johnson & Johnson's vaccine candidate, $486 million in Moderna, $1.6 billion in Novavax and about $1.2 billion in AstraZeneca. AstraZeneca and its partner Oxford University also published encouraging results recently. Their distribution will depend on success during clinical trials and their subsequent approval.
Once any potential vaccine wins approval from the FDA, the US government will deliver the doses. Azar said they were in talks with other players who are also in the race to produce a Covid-19 vaccine. "We will ensure that any vaccine that we're involved in sponsoring is either free to the American people or is affordable," Azar told CNBC.
Usually, private players pay for a vaccine in the US. “This is not at all typical, but I think it’s a great thing,” Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, told The New York Times. "We're in a public health crisis and it's great the government is going to be providing a vaccine for Americans," she added.