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Pfizer, BioNTech Reach Deal To Supply U.S. With More Vaccine Doses

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We have news this morning that Pfizer and BioNTech have reached a deal to supply the United States with 100 million additional doses of their coronavirus vaccine. This will add to the 100 million doses the drugmakers were already supplying the government. And we have NPR pharmaceuticals correspondent Sydney Lupkin with us this morning. Hi, Sydney.

SYDNEY LUPKIN, BYLINE: Good morning.

GREENE: So let's dig right in here. What do we know about this deal?

LUPKIN: So as you said, it covers an additional hundred million doses. And that cost the U.S. government an additional $2 billion. This is the second major follow-on order by the government in the last two weeks. This one is a lot - was a lot harder to pull off because the contract terms were a bit more of a challenge. With Moderna, which, of course, is the other authorized coronavirus vaccine, it was pretty straightforward as an extension of their original contract that was signed over the summer. But with Pfizer, even though they already had an existing contract, they still had to basically need to draw up a whole new agreement to get more doses.

GREENE: OK. So now that that deal is done, when do we expect these additional doses to be out the door, which is the big question?

LUPKIN: Yeah (laughter). There was some concern last week that Pfizer actually wouldn't be able to supply as many doses in the second quarter of 2021 because it had deals with other countries. And they wanted vaccine, too. It looks like the arrangement now is that 70 million doses will be delivered by the end of June. And the remaining 30 million will be delivered by the end of July.

GREENE: So what does that mean in terms of the vaccine rollout, how fast we thought it would be and whether or not this might change the time frame?

LUPKIN: Well, a rollout like this isn't going to dramatically change things in the next couple of months. But it's going to help the vaccination effort pick up steam through the spring and into the summer.

GREENE: OK. So we have Pfizer-BioNTech. Of course, we had the Moderna vaccine, which began shipping for emergency use this week. Let's look at this broadly. I mean, can people start feeling like we can point to a time when everyone in the United States who wants a vaccine will be able to get one?

LUPKIN: Well, between both companies - right? - the country will have 400 million doses by late summer. Remember, both of these vaccines require two doses. So that covers 200 million people. But that's nearly two-thirds of the population. So the coverage would be significant, but it wouldn't be universal. And, of course, we should also remember that there are still other vaccines that are being developed and that are - you know, they could be the next to be - to go through the authorization process with the FDA. So the next one could be Johnson & Johnson, for example. And then there are still others. So that's all - it's all positive.

GREENE: All right. Covering some positive news this morning.

LUPKIN: Yes.

GREENE: Pfizer-BioNTech reached a deal to supply the United States with 100 million additional doses of their coronavirus vaccine. So things are moving in the right direction even though as we have the spike in cases that continues in the United States. NPR pharmaceutical correspondent Sydney Lupkin. Sydney, thank you so much.

LUPKIN: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.