Americans will have more opportunities to get their hands on the authorised covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. On Wednesday, the companies announced having reached a deal with the U.S. government with an additional 100 million doses by July 31, up from the initial 100 million doses ordered already. The deal follows a similar extension of doses reached by the U.S. with Moderna for their vaccine. Both vaccines require two doses to be administered.
According to Pfizer, the almost $US2 ($3) billion deal calls for at least an additional 70 million doses to be provided to the U.S. by June 30, with the remaining 30 million doses needing to be delivered by July 31. It also allows for the U.S. to obtain up to an additional 400 million doses in the future.
“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,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement released by the company.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine was the first to win an emergency use authorization earlier this month in the U.S., with Moderna’s authorization following a week later. Just before the Pfizer/BioNTech authorization, however, it came to light that the Trump administration had rejected several offers to buy additional doses of the vaccine earlier in the summer, raising the possibility that no further doses would be available until after the second half of 2021.
Before the authorization of Moderna’s vaccine, though, the U.S. secured a deal with the company to provide an additional 100 million doses by next summer. And together with the new Pfizer deal, the combined 400 million doses from both vaccines should allow 200 million Americans to be fully vaccinated by then.
Both vaccines are thought to be around 95% effective at preventing symptoms from covid-19 after the full course of doses. Their side effects include injection site pain, fatigue, headache, and fever. Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine has also been linked to several reports of allergies, which has led the Food and Drug Administration to advise against giving the vaccine to anyone with a history of severe allergic reaction to vaccines or ingredients in this particular vaccine.
Despite the new deals, it’s unlikely that a significant number of Americans will receive a vaccine until months into 2021 at best. There continue to be concerns about how effectively vaccines will be distributed throughout the country, while a labelling error led to some doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine being thrown out in the first days of the rollout. (Since then, the FDA has said that any extra full doses found in vials can be used.)
The incoming Biden administration has signalled its desire to ramp up vaccine production and distribution sooner than expected, possibly by invoking the Defence Production Act. But for now, it will still take a while before most Americans will be able to get vaccinated for covid-19.