Feds to Spend $2.1 Billion on Another Potential Covid Vaccine

Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s coronavirus response program, now has six potential vaccines in development.

A patient enrolled in a coronavirus vaccine clinical trial receives an injection at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore in May. (University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP)

(CN) — In the largest Covid-19 medication deal to date, the federal government agreed Friday to pay drugmakers $2.1 billion for 100 million doses of another potential vaccine. 

As the world races to develop and secure effective coronavirus treatments, pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur announced they will supply an initial 100 million doses of an experimental vaccine to the U.S. 

In addition to the government’s preemptive purchase of doses, the money will go toward clinical trials and a large-scale manufacturing demonstration project that will take place while the trials are underway. 

By funding manufacturing endeavors, the Department of Health and Human Services said the federal government will “own the doses that result from the demonstration project.”

“Collaborating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense will help fund the development activities and secure scale-up of Sanofi’s and GSK’s manufacturing capabilities in the United States for the recombinant protein-based, adjuvanted vaccine, resulting in a significant increase in capacity,” the pharmaceutical companies said in a statement on Friday. 

They say more than half of the $2.1 billion from the U.S. will be used for further development of the vaccine and Sanofi will receive the majority of the funding.

HHS says millions of doses could be distributed by the end of the year if clinical trials are successful and the Food and Drug Administration authorizes the vaccine’s use to prevent Covid-19.

The agency warned that, per usual with government-purchased vaccines, the public may still need to pay health care professionals for administering the shot. 

“The portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed increases the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. 

Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s coronavirus response program, now has six potential vaccines in development. They include medications made by Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Novavax.

Compared to other candidates in the Warp Speed catalog, the research process of GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur’s vaccine is still in its infancy with human trials projected to begin this fall. Biotech company Moderna, by contrast, launched the final-stage testing of its vaccine in the U.S. earlier this month.

The new vaccine candidate announced Friday has only been studied in preclinical trials so far.

“Today’s investment supports the Sanofi and GSK adjuvanted product all the way through clinical trials and manufacturing, with the potential to bring hundreds of millions of safe and effective doses to the American people,” Azar said. 

HHS says the U.S. has the ability to acquire up to 500 million additional doses of the vaccine if it is proven effective.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Covid-19 pandemic has killed 150,283 people in the U.S. as of Friday afternoon. 

“Although face coverings, physical distancing and proper isolation and quarantine of infected individuals and contacts can help us mitigate SARS-CoV-2 spread, we urgently need a safe and effective preventive vaccine to ultimately control this pandemic,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said earlier this month.

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