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US inks $1.5 billion deal with Moderna for 100 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine

The United States 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 program, which aims to deliver a vaccine in the country by the end of the year.

August 13, 2020 / 11:41 AM IST

The United States has entered an agreement with drugmaker Moderna Inc to acquire 100 million doses of its potential COVID-19 vaccine for around $1.5 billion (£1.15 billion), the company and White House said on Tuesday.

The United States 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 program, which aims to deliver a vaccine in the country by the end of the year.

Moderna's price per dose comes to around $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 COVID-19 vaccines between $20 to $42 for a two dose course of treatment.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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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 U.S. only pays out in full if the drugmaker hits certain unspecific timing benchmarks for vaccine delivery.

The United States has advanced purchase agreements with Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca Plc, Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE, and Sanofi SA and GlaxoSmithKline Plc for their respective vaccine candidates.

The agreements would lock in more than 500 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine for the U.S., assuming that the companies involved receive regulatory approval. Some deals also give the United States an option to purchase additional doses.

The U.S. government previously gave Moderna around $1 billion to fund its research efforts, bringing total U.S. funding to around $2.5 billion.

Other countries, including Japan, the United Kingdom and Canada, have forged similar deals with drugmakers.
Reuters
first published: Aug 12, 2020 08:25 am
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