The race to acquire and distribute an effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine is as pressing as ever. It’s just been announced that the U.S. has said it will pay a whopping $1.95 billion to receive 100 million doses of a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, the companies announced today, with the U.S. able to obtain an additional 500 million doses in the future. CNBC notes that the Pfizer-BioNTech deal is the largest COVID-19 deal between the U.S. and pharmaceutical companies.
This latest deal is a part of the Trump administration’s so-called Operation “Warp Speed” (no self-respecting Star Trek person has endorsed this name by the way.) Anyway, the idea is that investments backing potential COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Pfizer and BioNTech are currently working together to develop four potential vaccines, and if one is rolled out, it will be made available to Americans for free. But the U.S. government has also backed a slew of other companies and researchers scrambling to develop the first vaccine, including Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and Moderna Inc., as Bloomberg reports. So, when might a vaccine be available? In a statement, Alex Azar, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, said, “Through Operation Warp Speed, we are assembling a portfolio of vaccines to increase the odds that the American people will have at least one safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” as per CNBC.
Although health officials have predicted that the process of actually distributing and making the vaccine available to Americans will be challenging since it is difficult to obtain enough syringes and the materials needed to transport the vaccine—i.e., coolers, insulating material, and temperature monitoring devices. But more questions and concerns emerge as wealthy countries like the U.S. and those in Europe and the U.K. pledge billions in the hopes of acquiring a cure to COVID-19, about what will happen to poorer countries’ access to the potential vaccine?