Groton-based Pfizer racing to make COVID-19 vaccine by end of 2020


GROTON, Conn. (WTNH) — The federal government reached a deal with Pfizer, a Groton based company, agreeing to buy 100 million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

The U.S. will pay Pfizer and their German partner, BioNTech, nearly $2 billion if that vaccine proves to be safe and effective in humans.

The first 100 million doses would be secured by the federal government with the rights to get more.

Pfizer is calling the project “Lightspeed,” while the government has dubbed it “Operation Warp Speed.”

This week, the company releases data suggesting the vaccine showed good immune responses with only minor side effects. It’s been a sense of hope in a worldwide pandemic.

During a news conference on Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont said, “Pfizer is one of the lead horses in this race right now.”

Other companies in the race include Astrazeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.

The pair hopes to have the vaccine by the end of 2020.

“We hope to complete this trial and have a regulatory submission by October,” said John Burkhardt, Pfizer’s Vice President of Safety and Research and Development. “And remember, we are making the vaccine at risk, the product, and that could be available certainly before the end of the year.”

Messenger RNA is the technology being used. In layman’s terms, the genetic material from the virus, is encased in tiny fat particles which wiggle inside human cells. the MRNA then triggers the immune system to attack the real virus.

“It’s never been done before that we’ve delivered a vaccine with that kind of particle,” said Burkhardt.

Safety and effectiveness trails begin next week with the help of Yale doctors.

RELATED: Pfizer reports encouraging, very early vaccine test results

If proven effective, two doses of the vaccine would be given weeks apart. Who gets it first is unclear. Lamont said his priority would be front line workers.

The federal government is paying for the first $2 billion worth. Reports state that could work out to $20 a dose. After that, how much Pfizer will charge for a dose is unknown. The Food and Drug Administration would have to make an emergency approval.

Once approved, the state will work with pharmacies to get the vaccine to the people.

“This is warp speed,” Lamont said. “It’s remarkable what they’ve been able to do.”

It’s unclear if this would be a one-time vaccine or an annual one.

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