The U.S. on Wednesday announced an agreement to pay pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and biotech firm BioNTech nearly $2 billion for 100 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine.
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Defense Department will acquire 100 million doses of the experimental vaccine under the $1.95 billion deal with Germany-based BioNTech and New York City-based Pfizer. The U.S. can also obtain an additional 500 million doses of the vaccine, developed jointly by the companies.
The doses are expected to be made available to Americans “at no cost,” provided the vaccine passes a large phase-three clinical trial and is approved by the Food and Drug Administration, HHS said. A large trial with up to 30,000 participants is slated to begin later this month, the companies said.
The agreement is the largest of several recent deals the Trump administration has made to acquire experimental coronavirus vaccines as part of its “Operation Warp Speed.”
“Through Operation Warp Speed, 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,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement Wednesday. “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.”
The U.S. also struck a $1.2 billion deal with AstraZeneca for at least 300 million doses of a vaccine developed by scientists at the University of Oxford, an early human trial of which yielded a strong immune response in hundreds of people. Another $1.6 billion agreement with Novavax will fund testing and manufacturing of a vaccine with a goal of acquiring 100 million doses by January. The government has reached agreements to invest millions of dollars in vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Emergent Biosolutions as well.
At least 23 of about 100 experimental coronavirus vaccines have reached the human trial stage. Widespread availability of a vaccine for the coronavirus, which has infected more than 14 million people globally and killed more than 606,200, is expected next year if trials are successful.