The contract for 100 million doses of the vaccine amounts to a $39 price tag for what is likely to be a two-dose course of treatment.

A vaccination is administered to a patient in a lab in Norfolk, Virginia.
A vaccination is administered to a patient in a lab in Norfolk, Virginia. (Monique Jaques / Reuters)

The Trump administration will pay Pfizer and German biotech BioNTech SE nearly $2 billion for a December delivery of 100 million doses of a Covid-19 vaccine the pharmaceutical company is developing, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Wednesday.

The contract for 100 million doses of the vaccine amounts to a $39 price tag for what is likely to be a two-dose course of treatment.

Americans will receive the vaccine for free, the companies said.

The contract is the most the US has agreed to spend on a vaccine, although previous deals with other vaccine makers were intended to also help pay for development costs.

Pfizer and BioNTech will not receive any money from the government unless their vaccine succeeds in large clinical trials and can be successfully manufactured, according to a Pfizer spokeswoman.

Under the agreement, the government would also have an option to procure an additional 500 million doses. Pfizer said the price for the additional doses would be negotiated separately if the US orders them.

The vaccine, if successful, will be made available to Americans at no cost, although their health insurance may be charged, the US department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said.

“Now those would, of course, have to be safe and effective” and approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Azar said during an appearance on Fox News.

Other agreements

It is the latest in a series of similar agreements with other vaccine companies.

The agreement is part of President Donald Trump's Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, under which multiple Covid-19 vaccines are being developed simultaneously. The program aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine by January 2021.

Under the initiative, the government will speed development and buy vaccines — before they are deemed safe and effective — so that the medication can be in hand and quickly distributed once the FDA approves or authorizes its emergency use after clinical trials.

Azar said the contract brings to five the number of potential coronavirus vaccines that are under development with US funding. Nearly two dozen are in various stages of human testing around the world, with several entering final test to prove if they really work.

Trump said Tuesday at a briefing that “the vaccines are coming, and they’re coming a lot sooner than anyone thought possible, by years.”

As early as next week, a vaccine created by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. is set to begin final-stage testing in a study of 30,000 people to see if it really is safe and effective. A few other vaccines have begun smaller late-stage studies in other countries, and in the US a series of huge studies are planned to begin each month through fall in hopes of, eventually, having several vaccines to use.

Pfizer is finishing an earlier stage of testing to determine which of four possible candidates to try in a larger, final study.

Other countries

Other countries are also scrambling to get a vaccine for Covid-19.

Britain announced Monday it had secured access to another 90 million experimental Covid-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and others, a move some campaigners warned could worsen a global scramble by rich countries to hoard the world’s limited supply of Covid-19 vaccines.

China, where the new coronavirus originated, also has several vaccine candidates entering final testing. Trump blames Beijing for not doing a better job of containing the virus and allowing it to spread around the world. Still, he said he'd be willing to work with China if it were first to the market with a reliable vaccine.

“We're willing to work with anybody that's going to get us a good result,” Trump said Tuesday. “We're very close to the vaccine. I think we’re going to have some very good results.”

READ MORE: Latest Covid-19 updates for July 22

Source: AP