The U.S. government has reached a new deal with Moderna for 65 million additional COVID-19 vaccine doses, the Biden administration announced on July 29.
The deal has a value of $1.7 billion.
According to agencies who announced the deal,
Moderna plans to sell vaccines that target Omicron subvariants. However, the contract itself has not been released.
Moderna and other vaccine makers have been updating their COVID-19 vaccine formulations because the vaccines are based on the Wuhan strain, which has not been prevalent since 2020. As newer vaccines become available, the effectiveness of existing vaccines has been decreasing.
BA.5, an Omicron Subvariant currently dominating in the United States bypasses protection from vaccinations and prior infections better than other strains according to new data. According to studies, prior infection or natural immunity continues to outperform vaccination.
U.S. drug regulatory authorities in June suggested that vaccine manufacturers include BA.5 or BA.4 components, another Omicron subvariant. These companies were concentrating on Omicron strains that existed in the early stages of development, but have been mostly displaced.
“Currently available vaccines have helped reduce the most serious outcomes (hospitalization and death) caused by COVID-19, but results from post-authorization observational studies have shown that effectiveness of primary vaccination wanes over time against certain variants, including Omicron. While initial booster doses may have restored protection from severe illness and hospitalization due to omicron, other studies also showed waning effectiveness over time,” Dr. Peter Marks (FDA top official) stated in a recently released statement .
“As we move into the fall and winter, it is critical that we have safe and effective vaccine boosters that can provide protection against circulating and emerging variants to prevent the most severe consequences of COVID-19,” he added.
Any updated formulas will need to be approved by the agency.
“We’re pleased to continue our collaboration with the U.S. government,” Stephane Bancel (CEO of Moderna) said in a Friday statement. “Moderna’s mRNA platform is enabling us to rapidly create mRNA-1273. 222, a bivalent vaccine that specifically targets Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, the most prevalent variants of concern in the U.S. today.”
Before the Moderna agreement, the U.S. government agreed to buy 105 million updated Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses.
This agreement was worth $3.2 billion.
Both deals were reached with the Department of Defense. This coordination was done with the Department of Health and Human Services. These agreements include the option that allow the government to purchase up to 600 millions doses from all companies, and 300million doses from any company if necessary. Officials from the Biden administration say that this would need more money from Congress.
Delivery of updated Moderna and Pfizer vaccinations may be possible as soon as fall. This is subject to FDA approval and support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We must stay vigilant in our fight against COVID-19 and continue to expand Americans’ access to the best vaccines and treatments,” Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement. As we turn our attention to fall and winter we are doing exactly that–ensuring Americans can stay safe and helping to keep the nation moving forward
Zachary Stieber reports on U.S. news and international affairs. His office is in Maryland.