The Trump administration announced a $1.95 billion contract with the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer for up to 600 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine on Wednesday.
The first 100 million doses could be manufactured by December if the vaccine is successful in upcoming clinical trials. The agreement is the largest one yet for “Operation Warp Speed,” the government’s coronavirus vaccine program.
Under the agreement, the federal government would obtain the first 100 million doses for about $20 a dose, with the rights to acquire up to 500 million more. If it were to receive emergency approval from The Food and Drug Administration, the vaccine would be distributed to Americans for free. Trials of 10,000 and then 30,000 participants are to begin this month, and the vaccine could receive regulatory review as early as October.
“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,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive officer said in a news release.
The FDA has said that to be considered effective, a coronavirus vaccine should protect 50 percent of the people who receive it. On Monday, Pfizer released data suggesting that their vaccine could stimulate strong immune responses that are only accompanied by minor side effects.
Pfizer did not receive a contract for its earlier research and development efforts for a vaccine, unlike other pharmaceutical companies researching their own vaccines. By only taking federal money for only the doses and their distribution, company officials have said that Pfizer was able to speed up the process of getting their vaccine to trial.
Pfizer is partnered with BioNTech, a German pharmaceutical company. Their vaccine uses the messenger RNA from the virus to kickstart a patient’s immune system without making them sick.
“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,” Dr. Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, said in a statement. “We made the early decision to begin clinical work and large-scale manufacturing at our own risk to ensure that product would be available immediately if our clinical trials prove successful and an Emergency Use Authorization is granted.”