U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration entered into an agreement with American biotech company Moderna for 100 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine, the White House and the drugmaker announced on Tuesday.
“I’m pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with Moderna to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine candidate,” Trump told reporters. “The federal government will own these vaccine doses; we’re buying them.”
Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel welcomed the deal in a statement issued Tuesday.
“We appreciate the confidence of the U.S. government in our mRNA vaccine platform and the continued support,” he declared.
Moderna’s vaccine is reportedly estimated to cost about $15 per dose.
According to the company, the government will provide the vaccine to the U.S. public free of charge.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) explained on Tuesday:
If these doses are used in a COVID-19 [coronavirus disease] vaccination campaign, the vaccine would be available to the American people at no cost. As is customary with government-purchased vaccines, healthcare professionals could charge for the cost of administering the vaccine.
Under the agreement, the government will reportedly have the option to buy up to an additional 400 million additional doses.
“With the latest deal, the U.S. has agreed to spend more than $9 billion for the shots,” the Wall Street Journal noted on Tuesday. “It has also invested in vaccine research and development, as well as supplies like vials and syringes.”
The agreement marked the sixth vaccine-related deal by the U.S. government, which has already secured over 500 million doses from other drugmakers as part of Operation Warp Speed, including Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi, and AstraZeneca.
President Trump has promised to develop and deliver a safe and effective vaccine in record time (by January 2021) through his administration’s multi-billion-dollar Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership.
“In creating a vaccine portfolio for Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration is increasing the likelihood that the United States will have at least one safe, effective vaccine by 2021,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement on Tuesday.
Moderna is co-developing the vaccine with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), an HHS component.
The company received nearly $1 billion in American taxpayer funds for its research efforts, bringing total U.S. commitments to around $2.5 billion.
That will raise the price per dose to about $25, analysts at Morgan Stanley told the Journal.
In collaboration with the U.S. government, Moderna is already conducting the final part of a three-phase clinical trial to clear the vaccine for widespread use.
At the moment, the Moderna candidate is the only one in the final phase. The manufacturing of the doses purchased by the Trump administration will reportedly take place while the trials are underway.
There are about a dozen other vaccine candidates in the U.S., including five or six backed by the U.S. government, going into the Phase 3 trials over the next few months, Trump administration officials have said.
“There’s never a guarantee that you’re going to get a safe and effective vaccine,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told lawmakers late last month.
“We feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021,” Fauci, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, added.
Trump said that the U.S. might have a vaccine by the presidential Election Day on November 3.
“Moderna has previously said its vaccine could get emergency approval in the fall if it proves to work safely in late-stage clinical trials, and has begun ramping up manufacturing in advance,” the Wall Street Journal pointed out.