Pfizer Gets $1.95B To Produce Coronavirus Vaccine By The End Of 2020

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Two pharmaceutical companies announced a nearly $2 billion contract for 600 million doses of a vaccine.

According to The New York Times, the Trump administration on Wednesday “made one of the largest investments yet, announcing a nearly $2 billion contract with Pfizer and a German biotechnology company for 100 million doses by December.”

The new contract is “part of what the White House calls the Warp Speed project, an effort to drastically shorten the time it would take to manufacture and distribute a working vaccine,” The Times wrote. Thus far, the US has put money into more than a half dozen efforts, “hoping to build manufacturing ability for an eventual breakthrough.”

The Pfizer contract, “an agreement to ensure the pharmaceutical giant has a market for its work, is the biggest splash yet by the Americans. No vaccine has yet been developed, and it is not clear whether the Pfizer version will work,” The Times reported. “But if the vaccine being produced by Pfizer and BioNTech, the German firm, proves to be safe and effective in clinical trials, the companies say they could manufacture those first 100 million doses by the end of the year.”

The Times wrote that “under the arrangement, the federal government would obtain that first batch for $1.95 billion, or about $20 a dose, with the rights to acquire up to 500 million more, or 600 million total. Americans would receive the vaccine for free. Before it could be distributed, it would need emergency approval by the Food and Drug Administration.”

Pfizer said that “large-scale safety and efficacy trials were to begin this month, with regulatory review set for as early as October, although nothing was guaranteed,” reported The Times. Health secretary Alex M. Azar II said in a statement announcing the deal, “Depending on success in clinical trials, today’s agreement will enable the delivery of approximately 100 million doses of vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.”

Pfizer and BioNTech are “developing a vaccine candidate that uses genetic material from the virus, known as messenger RNA, to stimulate the immune system without making the recipient sick,” the report added. “The technology can create a vaccine quickly, but has not yet produced one that has been approved and marketed.”

The large vaccine studies “set to begin this month will each include 30,000 people, with some getting placebo shots. The Food and Drug Administration has said that to be considered effective, a coronavirus vaccine should protect 50 percent of the people who receive it,” The Times continued. “Companies hope to show proof of effectiveness by the fall, but that will depend on enrolling enough volunteers in areas where the infection rate is high enough to see a significant difference between the vaccinated people and the placebo group.”

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician and senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, said that “the $1.95 billion agreement was a way to guarantee a market for the vaccine at the end of production, since prominent drugmakers have historically been hesitant to spend on infectious disease outbreaks,” according to The Times.

“Advance purchase agreements have been one way we’ve been able to acquire vaccines and countermeasures against certain threats that pharmaceutical companies have traditionally stayed away from,” Adalja said.

The agreement with Pfizer, which the company and the Department of Health and Human Services “announced Wednesday morning, is the largest one yet for Operation Warp Speed,” The Times wrote. Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive officer, said in a news release: “We’ve been committed to making the impossible possible by working tirelessly to develop and produce in record time a safe and effective vaccine to help bring an end to this global health crisis.”

Read the full report here.

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