SWITZERLAND, JULY 23 – The United States on Tuesday signed a $1.95 billion agreement with US pharma giant Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech for 100 million doses of their experimental COVID-19 vaccine, part of an aggressive push to start immunizing Americans early next year.
The US government has the ability to buy an additional 500 million doses after the initial rollout. BioNTech projects that they can manufacture over 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
The announcement comes a day after the Trump administration announced that they support wearing a mask, citing that the pandemic would get worse before it gets better.
President Donald Trump has long been criticized for downplaying of the pandemic and the deaths that he may have been able to prevent had he changed his stance earlier.
BioNTech will leave the distribution of the vaccines to the US government as discussions arise over who should receive the vaccine first. The German firm also announced that the vaccine will be free to all Americans as Trump has commented.
The pharmaceutical companies have narrowed their vaccine candidates down to two front-runners that have been granted FDA fast track designation. They are currently awaiting approval to begin a mass trial involving 30,000 volunteers which may happen later this month.
Earlier this month, they announced that early results showed that their lead candidate produced neutralizing antibodies in humans at or above the levels observed in recovered COVID-19 patients.
This was accomplished with relatively low doses and caused side effects that were mild to moderate but transient, which is considered normal.
“We are assembling a portfolio of vaccines to increase the odds that the American people will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” said health secretary Alex Azar of the deal.
“We are honored to be a part of this effort to provide Americans access to protection from this deadly virus,” added Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer.
The announcement of the reservation of vaccines by the US comes as the global race for the vaccine gains traction.
There are currently 200 candidate vaccines in development, and 23 of those have continued onto human trials. Five major companies have announced that the vaccines they are developing will be safe, effective, and made without cutting corners.
-RNA vaccine –
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine method relies on using messenger RNA, genetic code from the 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 generate antibodies. The idea behind the technology is decades-old but has never brought a vaccine to regulatory approval.
A BioNTech spokeswoman revealed that two injections would probably be needed for maximum protection, with the booster shot following seven days after the first injection.
Based on the price paid by the US government, it would therefore, cost $39 to immunize a person against the deadly virus.
A definite roll out date for the vaccine is unknown as doctors and scientists focus their energy on the production and testing of the vaccine.