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The US government just spent $2.1 billion on its biggest coronavirus vaccine contract yet

Published Jul 31st, 2020 3:02PM EDT
Coronavirus vaccine
Image: AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

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  • The US government invested $2.1 billion in the development and delivery of 100 million doses of the vaccine candidate from Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline on Friday.
  • This is the second multi-billion dollar contract the US has made this month, following a $1.95 billion contract with Pfizer and BioNTech just over a week ago.
  • The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed “aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.”

In all likelihood, there will be more than one vaccine for the novel coronavirus available within the next few months, and the United States is casting a wide net to ensure that it has plenty of doses, regardless of which company is first to market. On Friday, Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline announced that the US government would invest up to $2.1 billion for the development and delivery of 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine.

The two pharmaceutical companies say that more than half of the $2.1 billion will support the development of the vaccine, including clinical trials, and the remainder of the investment will go to the manufacturing and delivery of the initial 100 million doses. As part of the deal, the US government also has the option to order an additional 500 million doses in the long term as the country attempts to innoculate every citizen it possibly can.

“The global need for a vaccine to help prevent COVID-19 is massive, and no single vaccine or company will be able to meet the global demand alone,” said Thomas Triomphe, Executive Vice President and Global Head of Sanofi Pasteur. “From the beginning of the pandemic, Sanofi has leveraged its deep scientific expertise and resources to help address this crisis, collaborating with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to unlock a rapid path toward developing a pandemic vaccine and manufacturing at large scale. With our partner GSK, we expect our Phase 1/2 study for the recombinant adjuvanted approach to start in September.”

This is the second major vaccine investment the US government has made this month. On July 22nd, the government announced it would pay Pfizer and BioNTech $1.95 billion to produce 100 million doses of their vaccine by December. Both the Pfizer and the Sanofi contracts are part of Operation Warp Speed, which “aims to deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective vaccine for COVID-19 by January 2021.”

“The portfolio of vaccines being assembled for Operation Warp Speed increases the odds that we will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” said US HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “Today’s investment supports the Sanofi and GSK adjuvanted product all the way through clinical trials and manufacturing, with the potential to bring hundreds of millions of safe and effective doses to the American people.”

Sanofi plans to start early-stage human trials of its vaccine in September, but other vaccines are already starting or preparing to start late-stage trials, including Moderna, which entered Phase 3 this week, and Pfizer, which is seeking to enroll 30,000 participants in its own Phase 3 trial as of Monday.

Jacob Siegal
Jacob Siegal Associate Editor

Jacob Siegal is Associate Editor at BGR, having joined the news team in 2013. He has over a decade of professional writing and editing experience, and helps to lead our technology and entertainment product launch and movie release coverage.