The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DOD) will purchase an additional 100 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for delivery in 2021.
“Under the agreement, Pfizer will manufacture and deliver up to 100 million doses of its SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, BNT162b2, to Government designated locations,” a DOD statement on Dec. 23 states.
“Pfizer will deliver at least 70 million doses by June 30, 2021, with the balance of the 100 million doses to be delivered no later than July 31, 2021.”
This new purchase will allow for a “seamless transition” from the initial 100 million doses of the vaccine authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Dec. 11, bringing the total doses purchased to 200 million.
The cost of the 200 million doses to the government has been $4 billion.
The vaccine was developed as part of Operation Warp Speed, a collaboration between HHS, DOD, private companies, and other federal agencies to accelerate the development, production, and distribution of COVID-19 treatments.
Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine works by using messenger RNA also called mRNA, which “takes advantage of the process that cells use to make proteins in order to trigger an immune response and build immunity to a virus.” By contrast, traditional vaccines use weak versions of a disease-causing virus to stimulate the creation of antibodies.
This agreement also leaves the possibility for another 400 million doses of the vaccine in the later part of 2021.
“Securing more doses from Pfizer and BioNTech for delivery in the second quarter of 2021 further expands our supply of doses across the Operation Warp Speed portfolio,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar.
“This new federal purchase can give Americans even more confidence that we will have enough supply to vaccinate every American who wants it by June 2021.”
In addition to the vaccine doses, the DOD announced an agreement with Merck to develop and produce “their investigational therapeutic MK-7110 to treat hospitalized patients with severe or critical COVID-19.”
Under OWS and with federal funding, the goal is to have the Merck therapeutic (of as many as 100,000 doses) ready for delivery by June 30, 2021.
The initial analysis of the ongoing study of MK-7110 showed that the treatment “reduces the risk of respiratory failure or death by 50 percent compared to the standard of care.”
“Our agreement with Merck is the latest example of how industry and government are coming together under OWS to move potential therapeutics all the way from development through to manufacturing, enabling faster distribution,” Azar said in a Dec. 23 statement.