The United States signed a $ 1.95 billion deal on 100 million doses of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine with U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German BioNTech on Tuesday. This is part of an aggressive plan to start immunizing Americans early next year.
It is the largest Operation Warp Speed business to date to accelerate the development, manufacture, and distribution of coronavirus vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.
Pfizer and BioNTech, who are jointly developing the drug, said in statements that the American people would receive the future vaccine "free" according to the Trump administration's promise.
Under the agreement, the U.S. government has placed an initial order for the delivery of 100 million cans when regulatory approval is given.
The U.S. government also has the option to purchase up to 500 million additional cans from the two companies.
BioNTech and Pfizer have narrowed their vaccine candidates to two leaders and are waiting to be given the go-ahead for a mass trial of 30,000 healthy volunteers to take place later this month.
If the studies are successful, they expect an emergency permit as early as October 2020.
Earlier this month, they announced that early results showed that their main candidate produced neutralizing antibodies at or above levels seen in recovered COVID-19 patients.
This was achieved with relatively low doses and caused side effects that were mild to moderate but transient, which is considered normal.
"We are putting together a portfolio of vaccines to increase the likelihood that the American people will get at least one safe and effective vaccine by the end of this year," Health Minister Alex Azar said of the deal.
"We are honored to be part of this effort to give Americans access to protection against this deadly virus," added Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO.
– vaccine breed –
Laboratories around the world are trying to make a vaccine to end the worst health crisis in over a century.
Currently, more than 200 vaccine candidates with approximately two dozen vaccines are in the clinical trial stage with volunteers.
Earlier this month, the United States signed a $ 1.6 billion contract with Novavax for 100 million cans.
In May, the government announced up to $ 1.2 billion for AstraZeneca's vaccine candidate, developed in collaboration with Oxford University.
The United States has also announced $ 456 million for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine candidate. $ 486 million for Moderna; and $ 628 million for Emergent Biosolutions.
The government also invests in production capacity at its own risk and spends hundreds of millions in companies that manufacture syringes, vials and medical glass-coated plastic containers.
– RNA vaccine –
The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine method is based on the use of messenger RNA, a genetic code from SARS-CoV-2 that slips into human cells to produce a synthetic form of the virus spike protein.
This in turn causes the host to produce antibodies. The idea behind the technology is decades old, but has never brought a vaccine to regulatory approval.
A BioNTech spokeswoman told AFP that two injections would likely be required for maximum protection. The booster shot occurred seven days after the first injection.
So based on the price paid by the U.S. government, it would cost $ 39 to immunize a person against the deadly virus.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)