US Doubles Down on Pfizer Vaccine, Another 100M Doses Now in Production

Dry ice is poured into a box containing the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine as it is prepared to be shipped at the Pfizer Global Supply Kalamazoo manufacturing plant in Portage, Mich., Sunday Dec. 13. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, Pool)

WASHINGTON (CN) — Ramping up production, drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech announced Wednesday that they will supply the United States with an additional 100 million doses of its vaccine for Covid-19 by July of next year.

This announcement ups the total number of vaccines to be distributed to 200 million. Some 70 million of those doses would be delivered by June 30 with another 100 million delivered no later than July 31.

The United States had initially ordered 100 million doses of the vaccine that is 95% effective in treating the novel respiratory virus, and they have been making their way through the nation since last week after Pfizer-BioNTech received emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“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,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement Wednesday.

The new contract between the U.S. and the drug companies also leaves open an option for the federal government to purchase another 400 million doses on top of this redoubled amount, Pfizer said Wednesday.

While the United States will pay roughly $1.95 billion for the additional doses, the pharmaceutical giant underlined Wednesday that its vaccinations remain free for Americans.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunizations Practices has recommended inoculations be administered at no cost to ensure greater distribution and help end the pandemic which has gripped the United States for nearly a year. 

The advisory committee updated its recommendations for initial administering of vaccinations this Tuesday. Back on Dec. 1, the group recommended that residents of long term care facilities and health care personnel receive their doses first. This week, guidelines were updated to direct vaccinations for people 75 years and older, as well as “non health care frontline essential workers.” The next rounds will be targeted to 65- to 74-year-olds and individuals between the ages 16 and 64 who have risk medical conditions. Essential workers who did not receive vaccines before this point are also recommended for inoculation.

Ugur Sahin, CEO and founder of BioNTech, said the additional purchase should be seen as confidence booster in the drug’s safety and efficacy but further, a clear indicator of the U.S. government’s “confidence and trust” in the company’s ability to deliver as promised. 

The CDC’s Covid-19 data tracker reports the number of doses distributed for use as just over 4.6 million. About 614,000 doses have actually been administered thus far. 

The distributed doses come from both Pfizer and Moderna, which developed a separate vaccine that is 94.1% effective. According to the CDC’s tracker, however, the shots administered so far come only from Pfizer-BioNTech. Moderna’s vaccine received approval for emergency use last week.

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