WASHINGTON — The U.S. government reached a deal to acquire 100 million additional doses of Pfizer's vaccine.
Pfizer and BioNTech announced the agreement Wednesday, saying it brings the total number of doses to be delivered to the U.S. to 200 million. The companies expect to deliver the full 200 million doses by July 31, 2021.
The new deal is consistent with the original agreement announced in July 2020, the U.S. government will pay $1.95 billion for the additional 100 million doses.
“With these 100 million additional doses, the United States will be able to protect more individuals and hopefully end this devastating pandemic more quickly,” said Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer, in a statement. “We look forward to continuing our work with the U.S. government and healthcare providers around the country.”
Pfizer's vaccine was the first to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration and initial shipments went to states last week. It has now been joined by a vaccine from Moderna, which was developed in closer cooperation with scientists from the National Institutes of Health.
Moderna’s vaccine comes under the umbrella of the government’s own effort, which is called Operation Warp Speed. That public-private endeavor was designed to have millions of vaccine doses ready and available to ship once a shot received FDA approval.
But the deal with Pfizer moves the nation closer to the goal of vaccinating all Americans.
A law dating back to the Korean War gives the government authority to direct private companies to produce critical goods in times of national emergency. Called the Defense Production Act, it's expected to be invoked to help Pfizer secure some raw materials needed for its vaccine.
The vaccine from Pfizer and German pharmaceutical BioNTech immediately raised hopes of taming a pandemic that has killed nearly 320,000 people in the U.S. and hobbled much of the national economy. Health care workers and nursing home residents topped the list as local TV stations across the country began broadcasting scenes of the first vaccinations. Some polls show skepticism about getting vaccinated may be easing.
After early failures with testing, Trump administration officials are hoping to write a very different ending with vaccines. Operation Warp Speed has financed the development, manufacture and distribution of millions of doses, with the goal of providing a free vaccine to any American who wants one.
Operation Warp Speed is on track to have about 40 million doses of vaccine by the end of this month, of which about 20 million would be allocated for first vaccinations. Distribution of those doses would span into the first week of January. Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines require two shots to be fully effective.