The Daily Telegraph

Trump hoping for a vaccine by Christmas with $2 billion deal

Manufactur­ers agree to deliver 100m doses under biggest contract so far – if it is shown to be effective

- By Nick Allen and Ben Riley-smith

THE US has signed a contract worth $1.95 billion (£1.5 billion) for a potential coronaviru­s vaccine, which could lead to delivery of 100 million doses in December.

Pfizer, the pharmaceut­ical giant, and Biontech, the German biotech firm, will be paid for a vaccine they have been developing, but only if it works.

The contract is the most the US has so far agreed to spend on a possible vaccine under Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed programme.

Alex Azar, the US health secretary, said it “would, of course, have to be safe and effective” and approved by the Food and Drug Administra­tion.

Pfizer and Biontech are expected to begin large-scale trials this month in what they have called “Project Lightspeed”, after promising early results.

The developmen­t came as the president urged citizens to wear a face mask if they cannot socially distance, regardless of whether they like doing so, in a marked change in tone.

Mr Trump said: “Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact, they’ll have an effect and we need everything we can get. I will use it, gladly. Anything that potentiall­y can help is a good thing. We are imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars.”

He added: “It [the pandemic] will probably, unfortunat­ely, get worse before it gets better. As one family we mourn every precious life that’s been lost. I pledge in their honour that we will develop a vaccine.”

Mr Trump’s poll ratings have slumped in recent weeks. He is now running about nine points behind Democratic candidate Joe Biden ahead of the Nov 3 election.

In recent months, Mr Trump’s approval rating for tackling the pandemic has been dropping, with one recent poll showing just a third of voters approved of his handling of the crisis.

Pfizer and Biontech have been testing possible vaccines that require two injections, meaning 100million doses would cover 50million Americans, at a cost of $39 (£31) per patient to the US.

The US would have the option to acquire 500million more doses next year. Over 1.3 billion doses could be produced by the end of 2021.

Mr Azar said the contract brought to five the number of potential vaccines under developmen­t with US funding.

It has already signed agreements with companies including Moderna and Astrazenec­a. More than 150 potential vaccines are in developmen­t across the world, with two dozen already in human trials.

Mr Trump said earlier this week that “vaccines are coming, and they’re coming a lot sooner than anyone thought possible”.

The FDA will expect any vaccine to be at least 50 per cent effective in order to be approved. Frank Pallone, a Democrat congressma­n, told a hearing on vaccines in Congress: “My fear is the FDA will be forced by the Trump administra­tion to approve a vaccine that lacks effectiven­ess.”

US deaths rose by 1,141 on Tuesday, the first time since June 10 that the daily toll has surpassed 1,000, bringing the total to at least 142,000 fatalities from nearly four million cases.

Mike Ryan, of the World Health Organisati­on’s emergencie­s programme, said the first use of vaccines should not be expected until early 2021. He said: “Realistica­lly, it is going to be the first part of next year before we start seeing people getting vaccinated.”

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