By Luis Miguel
The Trump administration this week announced the closing of a $1.5 billion contract under which the federal government will purchase 100 million doses of an eventual COVID-19 vaccine produced by the biotechnology company Moderna, the sixth such deal reached since May.
“I’m pleased to announce that we have reached an agreement with Moderna to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine candidate,” the president said at a White House news conference. “The federal government will own these vaccine doses, we’re buying them.”
In a statement, Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel welcomed the deal. “We appreciate the confidence of the U.S. government in our mRNA vaccine platform and the continued support,” he said.
The Moderna vaccine will reportedly cost approximately $15 per dose, though the government will provide them to the American public free of charge.
As the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) explained on Tuesday, “If these doses are used in a COVID-19 [coronavirus disease] vaccination campaign, the vaccine would be available to the American people at no cost. As is customary with government-purchased vaccines, healthcare professionals could charge for the cost of administering the vaccine.”
Under the newly signed agreement, the government will also have the option of purchasing an additional 400 million doses.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. government has “also invested in vaccine research and development, as well as supplies like vials and syringes.”
The administration has already signed five previous such deals with drugmakers such as Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, Pfizer and Sanofi, and AstraZeneca — all part of Operation Warp Speed, which seeks to obtain over 500 million vaccine doses.
President Trump has vowed to deliver a safe and effective vaccine by January 2021 through Operation Warp Speed.
“In creating a vaccine portfolio for Operation Warp Speed, the Trump Administration is increasing the likelihood that the United States will have at least one safe, effective vaccine by 2021,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement on Tuesday.
Moderna is co-developing the vaccine in partnership with the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is under HHS. The government has given Moderna nearly $1 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds for its research work.
Currently, the Moderna vaccine candidate is the only one in the final phase.
“There’s never a guarantee that you’re going to get a safe and effective vaccine,” Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told lawmakers late last month, adding, “We feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this year and as we go into 2021.”
News of the deal between the Trump administration and Moderna sent the company’s stock surging 10 percent.
Moderna, whose work is focused on inserting mRNA into living cells, which, hopefully, reprogram the cells to develop autoimmune responses, has received millions of dollars in grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Gates, a proponent of population control, is funding both an under-the-skin vaccine history device that can be read with infrared-equipped smartphones and a remote-controlled contraceptive microchip to go under women’s skin.
Under a partnership between the Bill Gates-supported GAVI vaccine alliance and Mastercard, a new program called Trust Stamp is being tested in West Africa that would use biometrics to verify people’s information.
The goal is to integrate it into the GAVI-Mastercard “Wellness Pass,” a digital vaccination record and identity system, to enable the rapid verification of any given person’s vaccine history. Other elite organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation are also giving money to develop this technology.
Trust Stamp co-founder Gareth Genner explains how the system will work:
The hash has to work where there is no internet, no cellular connectivity, he says. It helps create a simple, low-budget way for children and their guardians to maintain medical records that cannot be confused with another child. Each time the child gets a vaccine and a new hash is created at the clinic, it is encoded with the updated health information. Algorithms can accurately predict if two different hashes belong to the same living person. “The hash evolves over time,” Genner says, “just as you evolve.”
If such a system is perfected, it would not even be necessary for governments to mandate a vaccine to get most people to receive it. Just as many large retailers and grocers now require customers to wear face masks to enter stores, they may likewise require proof of vaccination (verified through technology such as Trust Stamp) just to buy and sell.