US in $1.5bn deal with Moderna for potential coronavirus vaccine

The deal is the latest between the US and drugmakers to secure hundreds of millions of doses of likely vaccines.

Moderna HQ
Moderna's vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, is one of the few that have already advanced to the final stage of testing and is on track to be completed in September, according to the company [File: Adam Glanzman/Bloomberg]

The United States has entered an agreement with drugmaker Moderna Inc to acquire 100 million doses of its potential coronavirus vaccine for approximately $1.5bn, the company and White House said.

The US in recent weeks has made deals to acquire hundreds of millions of doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines from several companies as part of its Operation Warp Speed programme, which aims to deliver a vaccine in the country by the end of the year.

Moderna’s price per dose comes to about $30.50 per person for a two-dose regimen.

With the exception of its deal with AstraZeneca, which offered a lower price per drug in exchange for upfront research and development costs, all the deals price coronavirus vaccines between $20 to $42 for a two-dose course of treatment.

Moderna’s vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, is one of the few that have already advanced to the final stage of testing and is on track to be completed in September, the company said this month.

Moderna’s deal with the US only pays out in full if the drugmaker hits certain timing benchmarks for vaccine delivery.

The Trump administration has already reached supply agreements with several other vaccine front-runners.

In July, it agreed to buy 100 million doses of a messenger-RNA vaccine from Pfizer Inc. and its German partner BioNTech SE for $1.95bn, should the vaccine work in trials. And earlier this month, the federal government also reached a supply pact with Johnson & Johnson for the company to provide 100 million doses of its vaccine for more than $1bn.

While Pfizer’s price is slightly more than what Moderna will get on a per-dose basis, Pfizer has not received government money for testing its vaccine.

The agreements would lock in more than 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the US, assuming that the companies involved receive regulatory approvals. Some deals also give the US an option to buy additional doses.

The US government previously gave Moderna about $1bn to fund its research efforts, bringing total US funding to approximately $2.5bn.

Global race

Other countries, including Japan, the United Kingdom and Canada, have forged similar deals with drugmakers.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday that his country had become the first to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, a move Moscow likened to its success in the Cold War-era space race.

The vaccine, which will be called “Sputnik V” in homage to the world’s first satellite launched by the Soviet Union, has, however, not yet completed its final trials.

Moscow’s decision to grant approval before then has raised concerns among some experts. Only about 10 percent of clinical trials are successful, and some scientists fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.

Putin and other officials have said it is completely safe. The president said one of his daughters had taken it as a volunteer and felt good afterwards.

“I know that it works quite effectively, forms strong immunity, and I repeat, it has passed all the necessary checks,” Putin told a government meeting.

The Russian business conglomerate Sistema has said it expects to put the vaccine, developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, into mass production by the end of the year.

Government officials have said it will be administered to medical personnel, and then to teachers, on a voluntary basis at the end of this month or in early September. Mass roll-out in Russia is expected to start in October.

Source: News Agencies