Pfizer, U.S. strike 100 million COVID-19 vaccine deal with 70 million due by June

By Ankur Banerjee and Vishwadha Chander
(Reuters) - The U.S. government will pay Pfizer Inc nearly $ 2 billion for 100 million additional doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to improve its care as the country grapples with a nationwide surge in infections.
Under the new agreement, Pfizer will deliver at least 70 million cans by June 30 and the remainder by July 31 at the latest, the company said on Wednesday. The total number of cans was 200 million for a total price of around $ 4 billion.
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The purchase price is USD 19.50 per shot, which is slightly above the USD 18.90 per dose that Reuters is willing to pay according to the European Union. The shot has been approved for use in the EU and the US.
The U.S. deal comes after concerns grew that the government hasn't done enough to secure doses of either of the two approved vaccines.
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Nursing home residents received doses of coronavirus vaccine on Monday as the U.S. government and two of the country's largest pharmacy chains embarked on the next phase of vaccine distribution. The U.S. approved two vaccines against the virus, one from Pfizer and German company BioNTech, which was approved for use on December 11, and one from Moderna, which was approved last Friday. In the past week, around 2.9 million shots of the Pfizer vaccine were distributed, mainly given to healthcare workers. Some of the first Moderna injections were given in Connecticut on Monday. President-elect Joe Biden was among those who received a COVID-19 Pfizer vaccination at a public exhibit on Monday to increase confidence in their safety. BIDEN: "I'm doing this to demonstrate that when it becomes available, people should be prepared to take the vaccine. There's nothing to worry about." The vaccines' long-awaited hope, however, has been somewhat overshadowed by a new highly infectious strain of virus in the UK, which on Monday forced several countries to close their borders to travelers from the UK, India, Pakistan, Poland, Spain. Switzerland, Sweden, Russia, Jordan and Hong Kong have suspended travel for the British - and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged the US government to do the same - or at least ensure that every passenger coming from the UK in traveling the US previously tested boarding its flight - something Cuomo said more than 120 other countries had done. CUOMO: "Why don't we mandate tests before people get on the flight or the UK flights stop now?" Cuomo said he personally asked the three airlines flying from the UK to New York - British Airways, Delta and Virgin Atlantic - to test passengers before boarding. Both British Airways and Delta have agreed on this. The US death toll has increased from an average of seven days to 2,627 a day in the past few weeks. The total now stands at more than 317,000.
Pfizer's two-dose vaccine, developed with German partner BioNTech, will be launched in the US after the shot received emergency approval earlier this month. The country has also approved a vaccine from Moderna Inc.
Pfizer and the government said they had negotiated the terms of the agreement. The company said it tried to hit the dosage in the second quarter.
Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that they will produce 1.3 billion cans by 2021, but German biotech executives have announced that they will ramp up production. Governments around the world are struggling to source enough vaccines to tame the pandemic that has killed about 1.7 million people worldwide and devastated the economy.
"This new federal government purchase may give Americans even more confidence that we will have enough supplies by June 2021 to vaccinate any American who wishes," said Alex Azar, secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services, in an explanation.
"Securing more cans from Pfizer and BioNTech for delivery in the second quarter of 2021 will further expand our offering of cans across Operation Warp Speed's portfolio."
Pfizer said last week it might need the US government to secure some of the components needed to make the vaccine. While the company halved its 2020 production target due to manufacturing issues, it said last week that its manufacturing is now going smoothly.
The government also has the option to purchase up to 400 million additional doses of the vaccine.
More than 600,000 Americans received their first doses of COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The first wave of fire so far has been to healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes, as well as some high-ranking government officials. Americans in "essential" professions and those over the age of 75 are expected to receive vaccines in January, while general vaccination of the population will begin in a few months.
(Reporting by Ankur Banerjee and Vishwadha Chander in Bengaluru; editing by Caroline Humer and Sriraj Kalluvila)

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