HHS Secretary Azar says the FDA will move ‘as quickly as possible’ to clear Moderna and Pfizer’s Covid vaccines

Health, Fitness & Food

Alex Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), speaks during a news conference at the CDC Roybal Campus in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020.

Elijah Nouvelage | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration will move “as quickly as possible” to clear Pfizer and Moderna‘s coronavirus vaccines for emergency use, the top official at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Monday.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that the “incredible” interim results from Moderna, which announced on Monday that its vaccine candidate is more than 94% effective in preventing Covid-19, paired with similar results from Pfizer last week make for a “historic day in public health.”

Azar, who heads the federal agency that oversees the FDA, said the agency has dedicated teams working with both companies to “remove any unnecessary bureaucratic barriers” and are completing their authorization applications “as we speak.”

“We hope those applications from both Pfizer and Moderna will get in as quickly as possible,” Azar told CNBC. “We will independently call those balls and strikes on the data and evidence, but we’re going to do so as quickly as possible, consistent with just making sure the science, the evidence and the law support authorization.”

The U.S. has already invested more than $2 billion in Moderna’s vaccine, which it developed in collaboration with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases as part of the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed. The program is led by several departments within the federal government to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of vaccines.

In August, Moderna announced that it had reached a deal with the U.S. government to supply 100 million doses of its vaccine. The deal gives the federal government the option to purchase up to 400 million additional doses.

The U.S. also struck a near $2 billion deal with Pfizer in July for 100 million doses of its vaccine. Under the agreement, the U.S. can acquire 500 million additional doses.

There should be roughly 40 million doses of coronavirus vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer produced by the end of this year, enough to inoculate about 20 million people since both vaccines require two shots, said Azar, who oversees OWS.

The federal government also has supply agreements for Covid-19 vaccines from Johnson and Johnson; Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline; Novavax and AstraZeneca. The goal is to provide enough coronavirus vaccine doses to all Americans who want to be vaccinated against the disease by the second quarter of 2021 once all the drugs are authorized, Azar said.

“The product will role off the production lines — tens and tens of millions of doses each month — and we’ll vaccinate as we get them and as they’re quality controlled and released,” he said.

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