The U.S. is betting more than $1 billion on a vaccine that does not exist. The American government has pledged to pay as much as $1.2 billion to get early access to 300 million doses of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed and tested in England. The vaccine is being developed by the University of Oxford’s Jenner Institute and licensed to British drugmaker AstraZeneca.
The vaccine is in early clinical trials and being tested for safety, whether it produces antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and whether it protects the immunized from becoming infected with the virus. The first tests began in England on April 23. The vaccine could be delivered as early as October but would still have to go through the completion of clinical trials before it can be administered.
The contract “is a major milestone in Operation Warp Speed’s work toward a safe, effective, widely available vaccine by 2021,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a news release.