Moderna CEO says supply of coronavirus vaccine will be limited, US will help decide who gets it first

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By: William Feuer – CNBC 

If Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine proves to work, the company anticipates working “very closely”with the U.S. government to determine who will get the first doses, CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC on Friday.  

The company announced Thursday that the Food and Drug Administration cleared its potential vaccine for a phase 2 trial, what the company called a “crucial step.” Moderna is ramping up its manufacturing capacity ahead of approval so it can rapidly distribute doses if their vaccine proves effective against the virus and safe for humans. 

Even so, the company won’t immediately have enough for everyone, Bancel said. 

“We will all be supply constrained for quite some time, meaning we won’t be able to make as many product as will be required to vaccinate everyone on the planet,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” 

Last week, Moderna announced a 10-year partnership with Swiss drugmaker Lonza to accelerate production of the experimental vaccine. Bancel told CNBC at the time that the company hopes to begin manufacturing its potential vaccine “as early as July.” 

He added that with the partnership, the company hopes to be able to manufacture about 1 billion doses per year. There are more than 7.6 billion people on the planet, according to the U.S. Census’ world population clock. 

Bancel said Friday that the company will collaborate with the U.S. government to determine who receives the first doses. 

“In the case of the U.S., we anticipate to work very closely with the government and with key medical officials to decide who gets the vaccine in the first batch. And then when you have the next batch to ship to the government, how do we allocate it between health care workers, people who are high risk and different geographies where you have more cases,” he said. 

BARDA, which is a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, last month awarded Moderna up to $483 million in funding to accelerate development of the Covid-19 vaccine candidate

The potential vaccine, which was developed by researchers at Moderna and the National Institutes of Health, became the first candidate to enter a phase 1 human trial in March. The company has not published the results of the phase 1 trial yet but received federal approval to start a larger phase 2 trial soon. Bancel said the phase 3 trial will hopefully begin in the early summer. 

The vaccine candidate uses synthetic messenger RNA to inoculate against the virus. Such treatments help the body immunize against a virus and can potentially be developed and manufactured more quickly than traditional vaccines. 

The race to develop a vaccine is intensely competitive and investors are watching closely for signs of progress on treatments and vaccines. Bancel said it will take more than one company to beat back the coronavirus, which has infected more than 3.8 million people around the world and killed at least 270,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. 

“No one company can help the entire planet,” he told CNBC last month. 

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