WASHINGTON (AP) — Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Wednesday that the U.S. has signed a contract with Pfizer for delivery in December of the first 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine the pharmaceutical company is working to develop.
The U.S. could buy another 500 million doses under the agreement, Azar said.
“Now those would, of course, have to be safe and effective” and be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, Azar said during an appearance on Fox News.
Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE announced separately that the agreement is with HHS and the Defense Department for a vaccine candidate the companies are developing jointly.
The agreement is part of President Donald Trump's Operation Warp Speed vaccine program, under which multiple COVID-19 vaccines are being developed simultaneously. The program aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine by January 2021, according to HHS.
Under the initiative, the government will speed development and buy vaccines — before they are deemed safe and effective — so that the medication can be in hand and quickly distributed once the FDA approves or authorizes its emergency use.
Pfizer and BioNTech said the U.S. will pay $1.95 billion upon receipt of the first 100 million doses, following FDA authorization or approval.
Azar said the contract with Pfizer and BioNTech brings to five the number of potential coronavirus vaccines that are under development.
Trump said Tuesday at a briefing that “the vaccines are coming, and they’re coming a lot sooner than anyone thought possible, by years.”
But other countries are also scrambling to get their hands on a vaccine for COVID-19, which has killed more than 617,000 people, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Nearly 4 million Americans have been infected by the new coronavirus and at least 142,000 have died from COVID-19, the disease it causes, according to Johns Hopkins.
Britain announced Monday it had secured access to another 90 million experimental COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and others, a move some campaigners warned could worsen a global scramble by rich countries to hoard the world’s limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines.
Nearly two dozen potential vaccines are in various stages of human testing worldwide, with a handful entering necessary late-stage testing to prove effectiveness.