US reaches $1.95 billion COVID-19 vaccine deal with drug maker, Pfizer

Coronavirus

WASHINGTON (WPRI) — A new deal reached between Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE with the U.S. government could result in 600 million doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine.

The drug maker executed the agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense. The agreement comes as part of the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed program goal to begin delivering 300 million doses of a vaccine for COVID-19 in 2021.

The announcement comes just one day after five vaccine candidates, including Pfizer, virtually testified before the House Energy and Commerce committee to provide an update on their vaccine’s progress.

Pfizer said Americans would receive the vaccine for free, which would be consistent with U.S. government’s commitment for free access for COVID-19 vaccines. However, the deal comes with an a $1.95 billion price tag for the U.S. government.

Pfizer has agreed to initially deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine, once approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). As part of Operation Warp Speed, it would also mean the U.S. can acquire up to an additional 500 million doses from Pfizer.

“Hopefully the approval process will go very quickly, and we think we have a winner there,” President Donald Trump said Wednesday. “We also think we have other companies right behind that are doing very well on the vaccines, long ahead of schedule.”

Just this Monday, the drug maker announced its vaccine “elicited robust specific antibody and T cell responses,” both of which are considered by experts as key to a vaccine ensuring protection against disease.

The drug maker, which partnered with German company BioNTech, said it remains on track to begin a safety and efficacy trial later this month.

The announcement happened west of Rhode Island’s southern border, at Pfizer’s drug production facility in Groton Wednesday.

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont visited the facility to discuss the company’s research to develop the vaccine, saying he wants to make sure people know it’s being developed safely.

“It [the vaccine] will be not only effective, but also safe for each and everyone one of you,” Lamont said. “I’ll be one of the first ones to get that vaccine, and we must make sure everybody gets that vaccine as soon as it’s available.”

Pfizer says it hopes seek approval by October, and aims to the 100 million doses ready this year. It also aims to develop up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

Several other companies are on track to develop vaccines within the same time frame.

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