The U.S. government has agreed to pay biotechnical companies Pfizer and BioNTech $1.95 billion for 100 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine once it’s been cleared for use by the Food and Drug Administration, officials announced Wednesday.
The deal will also allow the U.S. to acquire as many as 500 million additional doses of BNT162, the vaccine candidate being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.
“This agreement is one of many steps towards providing global access to a safe and efficacious vaccines for COVID-19,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech. “We are also in advanced discussions with multiple other government bodies and we hope to announce additional supply agreements soon. Our goal remains to bring a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to many people around the world, as quickly as we can.”
The drug still needs to undergo a Phase 3 clinical trial, which is expected to begin later this month. Officials with Pfizer and BioNTech said they expect to seek regulatory review of BNT162 as early as October.
The companies hope to manufacture up to 100 million doses of their vaccine candidate by the end of the year.
The agreement announced Wednesday is part of a government effort to speed up the path to a vaccine, dubbed Operation Warp Speed. As part of the operation, officials aim to have 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine available to Americans by January.
“Expanding Operation Warp Speed’s diverse portfolio by adding a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech increases the odds that we will have a safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
President Donald Trump said Tuesday that “the vaccines are coming, and they’re coming a lot sooner than anyone thought possible, by years.” Nearly two dozen potential vaccines are in various stages of human testing worldwide, with a handful entering necessary late-stage testing to prove effectiveness.
As of Wednesday morning, more than 14.9 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide and more than 617,000 people have died of the viral infection, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. has been the hardest hit by the virus, with more than 3.9 million cases and over 142,000 deaths.
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