United States buys 200 million more doses of Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine

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FILE PHOTO: Vial and syringe are seen in front of displayed Pfizer logo

(Reuters) -Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech said on Friday the U.S. government has purchased 200 million additional doses of their COVID-19 vaccine to help with pediatric vaccination as well as possible booster shots - if they are needed.

A Biden administration official with knowledge of the contract said that as part of the agreement, Pfizer will provide the United States with 65 million doses intended for children under 12, including doses available immediately after the vaccine is authorized for that age group.

The U.S. government also has the option to buy an updated version of the vaccine targeting new variants of the virus.

The deal comes as the Delta variant of the coronavirus sweeps across the country and drives up infections, contributing to the debate over whether or not Americans will need a booster dose this fall.

It also follows the government's move in June to buy 200 million more doses of Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine.

The purchase brings the total number of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be supplied to the United States to 500 million, of which roughly 208 million doses have already been delivered, as of Thursday's data from the government.

"These additional doses will help the U.S. government ensure broad vaccine access into next year," Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in a statement.

Pfizer last year signed a deal with the U.S. government for 100 million doses of the vaccine for nearly $2 billion, with an option to buy 500 million more doses.

A majority of the new doses will be supplied by the end of the year, and the remaining 90 million will be delivered by April 30, the companies said.

Pfizer and BioNTech have designed a new version of their vaccine targeting the Delta variant, which they plan to test in the coming weeks, but have said the current vaccine could also provide protection against the variant.

Pfizer earlier this month said the companies plan to seek authorization from U.S. and European regulators for a booster dose of their COVID-19 vaccine.

The U.S. government has said Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster COVID-19 shot at this time.

Advisers to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday considered evidence suggesting that a booster dose of COVID-19 vaccines could increase protection among people with compromised immune systems.

CDC scientists told advisers that boosters for the immunocompromised would need to wait for regulatory action from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration - either full approval of vaccines or amendments to their current emergency use authorizations - before the CDC could make a recommendation.

(Reporting by Manas Mishra in Bengaluru and Michael Erman in New Jersey; Editing by Sriraj Kalluvila, Maju Samuel and Dan Grebler)