Covid-19 vaccine updates
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The US government is purchasing an additional 200 million doses of the BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, extending the total order to 500 million messenger RNA injections.
The doses – to be delivered between October and April next year – will be either the current formulation or one that has been adapted to coronavirus variants. In studies that will start next month, the companies will test whether a customized shot of the Delta variant is more effective.
Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer, said Friday the additional purchase would allow “wide access” to vaccines in the US.
“As a long-term partner of the US government in the fight against this pandemic, we are proud of the impact of vaccination efforts across the country. Vaccines are and will continue to be critical to protecting lives from this devastating disease,” he said.
Pfizer has ruled that people who have already received the full two-jab regimen are likely to need a third shot, although U.S. public health officials have been reluctant to commit to a booster program.
The UK prepares for a booster program for the most vulnerable as its scientists examine emerging evidence. The EU has also taken a big gamble to continue using the Pfizer vaccine, with an order of up to 1.8 billion to be delivered by 2023.
The companies plan to apply for emergency use authorization in the US to use their injection as a third dose. Analysts predict that a boostershot market could be worth tens of billions of dollars.
About 60 percent of adults in the US are fully vaccinated, and while shots are widely available, officials have struggled to overcome high levels of hesitation about vaccines.
Separately, through the World Health Organization’s Covax initiative, the U.S. government has already ordered 500 million doses of Pfizer at nonprofit prices to provide to developing countries in 2022 and 2023.
“Our consistent goal has been to deliver as many doses of our Covid-19 vaccine as possible to people around the world to end this pandemic,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech.
Pfizer and BioNTech were the first to receive approval for their Covid vaccine in many countries, including the US and UK, and more recently the first to receive approval for use in teens.
They have capitalized on their early success and high efficiency by rapidly expanding their manufacturing facilities, allowing them to sign major contracts for years to come.