Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have agreed to deliver an additional 100 million doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to the United States, as the country seeks to expand its immunization program and revive its economy.
The deal brings the total number of doses to be delivered to the United States to 200 million, the companies said in a statement on Wednesday. The drugmaker plans to deliver all doses to the U.S. vaccine and drug accelerator Operation Warp Speed by July 31.
Countries around the world are looking for vaccine supplies they hope will reopen schools and businesses and resume travel. The UK has also started administering doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and European pharmaceutical authorities cleared it on Monday.
The United States is working to increase supplies of the leading vaccine, in light of drugmakers’ commitments to other countries. Earlier this month, the United States exercised an option to purchase an additional 100 million doses of the vaccine from Moderna, doubling the number of the company’s orders to 200 million.
As Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, Moderna is a two-dose regimen based on a new technology known as messenger RNA, but it does not need to be stored at the same ultra-cold temperatures as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
In July, the United States agreed to pay $ 1.95 billion for 100 million initial doses of Pfizer, with an option to purchase another 500 million. The United States will also pay $ 1.95 billion for the new order, the statement said, and provide the vaccine to Americans for free. The cost of administering vaccines is covered by private insurance, government health care programs and a Department of Health and Social Services program for uninsured persons.
Pfizer stock gained 1.5% to $ 37.29 at 10:09 a.m. in New York on Wednesday.
United States-Pfizer negotiations
The United States and Pfizer had been in talks to deliver an additional 100 million doses in the second quarter for weeks. Moncef Slaoui, the chief scientific adviser to Operation Warp Speed, said in an interview last week that Pfizer had asked the United States to use the Defense Production Act to help the drug maker get additional material and equipment to achieve this goal.
The deal follows reports the government turned down an offer to purchase more doses earlier this year after Pfizer failed to commit to a delivery date. Using the Defense Production Act could help get more doses faster from the American public, according to Slaoui.
Companies making vaccines for Operation Warp Speed are using the same materials, Slaoui said, and the United States has been able to secure priority access to supplies for drug companies that have agreed to work with the government over research, development and manufacturing, he said.
The new deal could change the dynamic between the US government and Pfizer, which refused to withdraw money from Operation Warp Speed to fund its vaccine research.
Pfizer “decided they didn’t want to take resources from the US government,” Slaoui said. “If you ask the government to give you the support of the Defense Production Act, the government has, by definition under the law, the ability to access anything you manufacture.
Medicine for the deadliest cases
At the same time as the government guarantees access to more vaccines, it is also seeking to strengthen the treatments it has available for people with COVID-19.
The United States agreed to a deal on Wednesday in which Merck will provide an investigational COVID drug that the company has acquired in itsrecent purchase of OncoImmune. The government will fund the development, production and distribution of the drug once it is cleared for use by the Food and Drug Administration, Merck said in a statement.
Merck will receive approximately $ 356 million for the manufacture and supply of 60,000 to 100,000 doses through the end of June, the statement said. The therapy is designed to alleviate inflammation caused by virus-induced damage to human cells, an underlying cause of certain complications, and should be used for the treatment of critically ill Covid patients.
MerckOkayin November to buy OncoImmune with an upfront payment of $ 425 million in cash.
More health and Big Pharma coverage of Fortune:
- The deployment of the COVID-19 vaccine is dangerously flawed. Science and data could fix it
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- COVID vaccine recipients can still be contagious. When will we know for sure?
- COVID vaccine allergies cause concern. Most Americans should still get the vaccine
- Pfizer, Trump and Biden: a twisted triangle that complicating relief from COVID-19