American pharma company Pfizer Inc. said that its vaccine being developed in collaboration with German partner BioNTech SE was 90% effective against COVID-19, suggested by early results from its large, late-stage trial.
According to Health Secretary Alex Azar, the U.S. government plans to begin vaccinating Americans in December if Pfizer can submit the positive initial data from its COVID-19 vaccine trial to health regulators as quickly as expected.
The U.S. drugmaker said it is expecting the safety data as early as next week. It will then apply for emergency use authorization (EUA) with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Once the FDA authorizes it, the US would receive about 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine per month, Azar told reporters.
The United States has a $1.95 billion contract for 100 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine – enough to inoculate 50 million people – with an option to acquire 500 million more.
Depending on the recommendations to the government, it will likely start with inoculations of the elderly in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, healthcare workers, and first responders, intending to complete those shots by the end of January.
Even Anthony Fauci, the man of the hour and top U.S. infectious disease expert has said in an interview that he expects the doses of the vaccine to be available for certain high priority groups in December.
Azar said he is hopeful more such vaccine candidates will come out from other pharma companies like Moderna Inc. to protect against COVID-19. Moderna is expected to announce the interim results of a large trial of its experimental vaccine at the end of the month.
“By the end of March, early April, we expect to have enough for every American who would like to be vaccinated,” Azar said.
He also iterated that the U.S. government would begin distribution of Eli Lilly And Co’s antibody treatment this week, starting from areas with the highest numbers of hospitalized COVID-19 patients and overall cases.
The treatment, which is administered by infusion, received a EUA on Monday.
“We’ll ensure equitable distribution, and we’ll work tightly with our governors,” Azar said. He said the government will use the same process employed to distribute Remdesivir, an antiviral drug from Gilead Sciences Inc. used to treat people hospitalized with COVID-19.
Health officials and Eli Lilly were looking at ways to provide the treatment outside of hospitals, including outpatient infusion centers.
Fauci described the Lilly treatment as “an important first step in the development and distribution of interventions that are given early in the course of the disease.”