Royal Oak Tribune

Pfizer to supply U.S. with additional 100M doses of vaccine

- By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar

WASHINGTON » Pfizer said Wednesday it will supply the U.S. government with an additional 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine under a new agreement between the pharmaceut­ical giant and the Trump administra­tion.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said that will bring their total current commitment to 200 million doses for the U.S. That should be enough to vaccinate 100 million people with the two-shot regimen. The government also has an option to purchase an additional 400 million doses.

“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,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement. The cost to taxpayers: $1.95 billion for the additional 100 million doses.

To aid vaccine production, the government said it is using its authority under a Cold War-era law that allows it to direct private manufactur­ing.

Pfizer’s vaccine was the first to be approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administra­tion. It has now been joined by another two-shot vaccine from Moderna, developed in close collaborat­ion with the National Institutes of Health. The government began shipping the Pfizer vaccine to states last week, and the one from Moderna this week.

The priority groups for first vaccinatio­n include health care workers and nursing home residents. Gradually more Americans will have access to the free vaccines, which have been shown to be highly effective in clinical studies undertaken so far. Separately, HHS announced it has joined forces with another big pharma company — Merck— to support the large-scale manufactur­e of a promising treatment for patients suffering from severe COVID-19 illness.

The treatment, still under investigat­ion and not yet approved by the FDA, is known as MK-7110. It has the potential to minimize the damaging effects of an overactive immune response to COVID-19. This immune overdrive unleashes a cascade of effects on the human body, complicati­ng the life-saving efforts of doctors and nurses.

The government is paying Merck about $356 million to fast-track production of its treatment under the auspices of Operation Warp Speed, a joint effort between HHS, the Pentagon, and drug companies to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. It’s the same collaborat­ion that led to Moderna’s vaccine. The money will allow Merck to deliver up to 100,000 doses by June 30, if the FDA clears the treatment for emergency use.

The current wave of COVID-19 is straining hospitals in a number of states, from California to Pennsylvan­ia, and Oklahoma to Rhode Island. Having better treatments would help keep patients out of intensive care, improving their chances of survival and reducing the burden and stress on hospital staff.

Under the Pfizer deal announced Wednesday, the company will deliver at least 70 million of the additional vaccine doses by June 30, with the remaining 30 million to be delivered no later than July 31.

“With these 100 million additional doses, the United States will be able to protect more individual­s and hopefully end this devastatin­g pandemic more quickly,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our work with the U.S. government and healthcare providers around the country.”

 ?? NAM Y. HUH — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Prepared COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine syringes are seen at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill.
NAM Y. HUH — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Prepared COVID-19 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine syringes are seen at Edward Hospital in Naperville, Ill.

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