U.S. President Donald Trump has announced an agreement between the federal government and an American biotechnology company to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
The company, Moderna, is to manufacture the vaccine doses while clinical trials are under way.
“The federal government will own these vaccine doses — we’re buying them,” Trump told reporters at a White House news conference on Tuesday.
Three vaccine candidates in the United States are in the final stage of human trials.
“We’re on track to rapidly produce 100 million doses as soon as the vaccine is approved and up to 500 million shortly thereafter,” said Trump.
The Trump administration’s latest actions are “increasing the likelihood that the United States will have at least one safe, effective vaccine by 2021,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in a statement.
The president has recently stated he is optimistic a vaccine for the coronavirus could be ready by the time of the U.S. presidential election in early November.
Trump did not comment on an announcement earlier in the day by Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country has become the first in the world to formally approve a new COVID-19 vaccine, despite a lack of data to back up his claims that the drug is safe to administer to humans.
"I know that it works quite effectively, it forms a stable immunity,” Putin said of the new vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute, adding that the vaccine had undergone “all the necessary checks” to ensure its safety,
The Russian president also said his daughter has been inoculated in an early testing phase. She ran a slight fever on the first day, but her temperature dropped to normal the following day, according to Putin.
Production of the new Russian vaccine — which has been dubbed Sputnik V, in honor of the world’s first man-made satellite launched by the then-Soviet Union in 1957 — will begin next month, with mass vaccinations starting as early as October.
Russian authorities have said that medical workers, teachers and other risk groups will be the first to be inoculated.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said that the vaccination of doctors could start as early as this month.
The new vaccine is one of more than 100 possible vaccines being developed in a global race by governments and biomedical firms to blunt a pandemic that has now infected more than 20 million people worldwide.
The Russian vaccine is not among the handful that reached the third and final phase of testing in human trials, which usually involve thousands of people and lasts for months, according to the World Health Organization.
"Any vaccine producer has to follow this procedure that guarantees it is safe and has the WHO's recommendation," said Jarbas Barbosa, the assistant director of WHO’s regional branch, the Pan American Health Organization.
"I hope that the Russians have actually, definitively proven that the vaccine is safe and effective," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told ABC News. "I seriously doubt that they've done that."
Scientists within Russia have also questioned the move to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials are complete, which are needed to prove it is not harmful to patients.
Russia has also been accused by the United States, Britain and Canada of using hackers to steal vaccine research from labs in their countries.
Putin’s announcement comes as Chinese-based biotech company Sinovac has launched a late-stage human trial of a potential COVID-19 vaccine in Indonesia. The vaccine, dubbed CoronaVac, will be administered to as many as 1,620 volunteers to test its safety and effectiveness. Indonesia is the second nation where Sinovac has launched a late-stage trial.
Sinovac has already launched a late-stage trial of CoronaVac in Brazil, which has more than 3 million confirmed coronavirus infections and 101,752 deaths, placing it second behind the United States in both categories. Indonesia, the world’s fourth-most-populous country, has reported more than 127,000 total cases and 5,765 deaths.
Sinovac may also soon begin late-stage human trials of CoronaVac in Bangladesh. The company is not conducting human tests in China because of the low number of new infections.
Mexico’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, announced on Tuesday his country plans to conduct late-stage clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccines in development by U.S. and Chinese companies and has signed memoranda of understanding with Johnson & Johnson, along with Chinese companies CanSino Biologics and Walvax Biotechnology.
The United States leads the world in the number of total coronavirus infections — more than 5.1 million — and also in deaths, nearly 165,000, according to the coronavirus tracker established by Johns Hopkins University.