US to buy 100m more doses of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

US officials are planning for a mass vaccine roll-out they hope will bring the surging pandemic under control.

A panel of outside advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration is scheduled to hold a meeting on December 17 to discuss Moderna's request for an emergency use authorisation for its vaccine [File: Dado Ruvic/Illustration/Reuters]

The United States government will receive an additional 100 million doses of Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine, the company said on Friday, as the country prepares for a vaccine roll-out that officials hope will help get the surging pandemic under control.

The US has ordered a total of 200 million doses to date, Moderna said, adding that of the first order, about 20 million doses will be delivered by the end of December and the rest will come in the first quarter of 2021.

The US in August entered into an agreement with Moderna to acquire 100 million doses of its potential COVID-19 vaccine for about $1.5bn, with an option to secure an additional 400 million doses.

The country has recorded more than 15.7 million COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began – the most in the world – and infections are surging across the US, overwhelming many hospitals and healthcare workers.

A panel of outside advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is scheduled to hold a meeting on December 17 to discuss Moderna’s request for an emergency use authorisation for its vaccine.

The FDA is expected to issue an authorisation for a Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days, US officials said on Friday, after the FDA advisory panel endorsed that vaccine a day earlier.

“The FDA informed Pfizer that they do intend to proceed towards an authorisation for their vaccine,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told ABC News on Friday.

The US is preparing a widespread campaign to deliver the vaccine and slow a pandemic now killing about 3,000 citizens per day.

Another 2,902 virus-related deaths were reported on Thursday, a day after a record 3,253 people died, a pace projected to continue for the next two to three months even with a rapid roll-out of inoculations.

“We will work with Pfizer to get that shipped out so we could be seeing people getting vaccinated Monday or Tuesday,” Azar said.

Challenges and expectations

A US vaccine roll-out faces significant logistical challenges, however, to meet President-elect Joe Biden’s goal of inoculating 100 million people within 100 days of his inauguration on January 20, including coordination between national, state and local authorities.

But anyone who wants a vaccine should be able to get one by May or June, Assistant US Health Secretary Brett Giroir told Fox News on Friday.

States have begun to announce their initial expectations for vaccine doses and their distribution plans.

New York state expects to receive 346,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine the week of December 21, on top of the 170,000 Pfizer doses coming this weekend, Governor Andrew Cuomo said during a news conference.

New York City, one of the original US hot spots, will open a “Vaccine Command Center” to coordinate distribution throughout the city.

Particular attention will be paid to the 27 hardest-hit neighbourhoods largely populated by ethnic minorities, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday during a news briefing.

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New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that hard-hit neighbourhoods of the city would be prioritised for vaccines [Bebeto Matthews/Pool/AP]

States will determine who gets the vaccine first and are likely to focus on healthcare workers and people in long-term care facilities, followed by the elderly, people with chronic conditions and first responders, Giroir said.

A US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisory board has recommended to first vaccinate the elderly and healthcare workers.

Michigan expects to receive 257,000 vaccine doses initially, including 173,000 Moderna vaccines, the state’s chief medical executive, Dr Joneigh Khaldun, said at a Thursday news conference.

“The initial groups who will be vaccinated will be critical workers in our healthcare systems, including people working in hospitals, people who are first responders and more,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer also said.

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Healthcare workers direct a car at a COVID-19 temporary testing site near Penn Medicine Radnor, Pennsylvania, in March 2020 [Matt Slocum/AP]
Source: News Agencies