Coronavirus vaccine: US seals $2.1bn deal with drug companies for 100 million doses

The United States has agreed a $2.1bn (£1.6bn) deal with two big pharmaceutical companies to produce 100 million doses of an experimental Covid-19 vaccine.

British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline and French counterpart Sanofi Pasteur announced the agreement with the US government on Friday.

The deal is believed to be the largest such agreement to date, as countries start purchasing vaccine doses in the hope that one will complete trials.

The United States will pay up to $2.1bn, according to the companies in a statement, “for development including clinical trials, manufacturing, scale-up and delivery of its vaccine”.

The US government has agreed an option for the supply of an additional 500 million doses longer term as part of its Operation Warp Speed programme, which has seen The Trump administration invest more than $8bn in vaccine projects.

“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,” US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement.

“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.”

The US agreement comes after the British government signed a deal for 60 million doses of the same coronavirus vaccine earlier this week, with hopes that it could be rolled out in the first half of next year.

GSK and Sanofi’s experimental vaccine is based on the existing DNA-based technology that is used to produce Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccine, and is one of several vaccines in development.

“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 of Sanofi Pasteur.

The companies said discussions are ongoing with the European Commission.