President Donald Trump’s administration has reached a $1 billion deal with the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to mass produce a potential coronavirus vaccine, the administration announced Wednesday.
J&J is one of several companies the U.S. government is working with to research potential coronavirus vaccines, and the deal would cover the production of 100 million doses of the vaccine should it prove effective, the Hill reported Wednesday. The deal comes as part of Trump’s Operation War Speed, which aims at partnering the public and private sectors to minimize the time it takes to find a vaccine.
“With the portfolio of vaccines being assembled 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,” Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said in a statement.
The timeline for vaccine research is traditionally measured in years, but Trump and experts have said a vaccine for COVID-19 could be ready before 2021. (RELATED: Trump Calls On SCOTUS To Overturn Affordable Care Act)
Other experts have pointed out that it takes a great deal of time to mass produce a vaccine once it is proven safe. Under the Trump admin’s Warp Speed deals, several companies have already begun the process of mass production before the results are in from clinical trials, according to the Hill.
“We are scaling up production in the U.S. and worldwide to deliver a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for emergency use,” said Paul Stoffels, J&J’s chief scientific officer.
Trump also released a suite of four executive orders last week aimed at forcing companies like J&J to lower their prices for prescription drugs unrelated to the coronavirus.
The first order requires community health to centers pass on to their customers the discounts they have traditionally received on purchases of insulin and EpiPens. The second order allowed the U.S. to import drugs from Canada and other countries. The third requires that pharmaceutical “middlemen” pass on their discounts from drug manufacturers to their customers. The fourth would tie U.S. drug prices to the international price index, a system many other countries already use.
Trump said at the White House that the fourth order may not ultimately go into effect if drug companies present a workable plan for lowering drug prices prior to Aug. 24 at 12:00 p.m.
If they do not, he said the fourth order will go into effect and the U.S. will start pricing drugs based on the international index, Trump said.