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Pfizer to supply US with additional 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

Pfizer to supply US with additional 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

Surgeon General of the US Jerome Adams, left, elbow-bumps Emergency Room technician Demetrius Mcalister after Mcalister got the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination at Saint Anthony Hospital in Chicago, on Tuesday, Dec. 22, 2020. (Youngrae Kim/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON: Pfizer and BioNTech will supply the US with an additional 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine under a new agreement.

The drugmakers said on Wednesday (Dec 23) that they expect to deliver all the doses by Jul 31.

Pfizer already had a contract to supply the government with 100 million doses of its vaccine, and the latest agreement will double that.

The companies will deliver at least 70 million of the additional doses by Jun 30, with the remaining 30 million doses to be delivered no later than Jul 31. The government also has the option to acquire up to an additional 400 million doses.

The US will acquire the second round of COVID-19 vaccine doses for US$2 billion, Pfizer said on Wednesday.

READ: 2021 set to be Year of the COVID-19 vaccine but production and delivery challenges remain

Pfizer's vaccine was the first to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration and initial shipments went to states last week. It has now been joined by a vaccine from Moderna, which was developed in closer cooperation with scientists from the National Institutes of Health.

Moderna’s vaccine comes under the umbrella of the government’s own effort, which is called Operation Warp Speed. That public-private endeavour was designed to have millions of vaccine doses ready and available to ship once a shot received FDA approval.

The deal with Pfizer moves the nation closer to the goal of vaccinating all Americans.

A law dating back to the Korean War gives the government authority to direct private companies to produce critical goods in times of national emergency. Called the Defense Production Act, it's expected to be invoked to help Pfizer secure some raw materials needed for its vaccine.

Pfizer already had a contract to supply the government with 100 million doses of its vaccine under Operation Warp Speed, but government officials have said it is more of an arms-length relationship with the company and they do not have as much visibility into its operations.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said last week that the government was negotiating with Pfizer for more doses, but details provided Tuesday about the company's desire for better access to supplies are new.

“With these 100 million additional doses, the United States will be able to protect more individuals and hopefully end this devastating pandemic more quickly,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. “We look forward to continuing our work with the US government and healthcare providers around the country.”

The vaccine from Pfizer and German pharmaceutical BioNTech immediately raised hopes of taming a pandemic that has killed nearly 320,000 people in the US and hobbled much of the national economy. Health care workers and nursing home residents topped the list as local TV stations across the country began broadcasting scenes of the first vaccinations. Some polls show skepticism about getting vaccinated may be easing.

After early failures with testing, Trump administration officials are hoping to write a very different ending with vaccines. Operation Warp Speed has financed the development, manufacture and distribution of millions of doses, with the goal of providing a free vaccine to any American who wants one.

Operation Warp Speed is on track to have about 40 million doses of vaccine by the end of this month, of which about 20 million would be allocated for first vaccinations. Distribution of those doses would span into the first week of January. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots to be fully effective.

The New York Times first reported the new details of negotiations between Pfizer and the Trump administration.

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Source: AP/jt

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