US enters deal for 100 million doses of potential COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna

(CNN) - As part of an effort to have a COVID-19 vaccine ready by the end of the year, the Trump administration has entered a $1.5 billion deal with the drug company Moderna.

The Department of Health and Human Services is paying Moderna to produce and deliver 100 million doses of its potential vaccine, which the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases helped develop.

President Donald Trump announced the deal during a media briefing Tuesday.

The government investment assures the vaccine would be made available at no cost to Americans; though health care providers could charge fees for administering it. The government can also acquire up to an additional 400 million doses of the vaccine.

The vaccine is still in clinical trials and has not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration but is already being manufactured, so if it is approved, it can be rolled out quickly.

In a July interview with CNN, Dr. Paul Bradley, principal investigator at the Meridian Clinical Research site in Savannah, Georgia, said half of the subjects in the clinical trials have the vaccine and the other half a placebo.

“Everyone gets treated as if they’ve got the same thing, and we wait and watch. We’re looking for any side effects, any complaints,” he said.

The Trump administration’s goal is to have a vaccine ready by the end of 2020, as part of “Operation Warp Speed.” However, experts say if testing goes well, a vaccine could be available to the public in early 2021.

The government has reached similar deals with several other pharmaceutical companies producing other vaccine candidates.

U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar says four of the six companies under contract have reported testing results showing they produce more antibodies for the virus than people who have survived COVID-19, without severe side effects.

Azar says the U.S. is combining the powers of its government, economy and biopharmaceutical industry to “deliver as quickly as we can for the benefit of the United States’ citizens, but also for the people of the world, safe and effective vaccines.”

Russia claimed earlier Tuesday it has approved the first COVID-19 vaccine in the world, but there is skepticism about the product that came from a Moscow institute.

The World Health Organization says there are more than two dozen vaccines in human trials across the globe.

Copyright 2020 CNN, POOL, Moderna. All rights reserved. Associated Press contributed to this report.