The entrance to a Pfizer office in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Days after announcing the start of their late-stage clinical trial of a vaccine to prevent Covid-19, a U.S. drugmaker and its German partner are supplying a large number of doses of vaccine to Japan.

New York-based Pfizer and Mainz, Germany-based BioNTech said Friday that they would provide 120 million doses of vaccine from their BNT162 development program, assuming regulatory approval, to Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, in the first half of 2021. Financial details were not disclosed, and terms were based on timing of delivery and volume of doses, but the companies had signed a deal with the U.S. government to supply 100 million doses of vaccine for $1.95 billion.

The announcement referred only to BNT162, which collectively includes four vaccine candidates. In an email, a Pfizer spokesperson wrote that assuming clinical trial success and regulatory approval, the vaccine in question would be BNT162b2, which is the same vaccine that entered a global Phase IIb/III clinical trial last week. The other lead vaccine candidate is BNT162b1.

Shares of Pfizer were down more than 1.6% on the New York Stock Exchange Friday in late-afternoon trading. Shares of BioNTech were down about 2.5% on the Nasdaq.

“We are deeply honored to work with the Japanese government and to marshal our scientific and manufacturing resources toward our shared goal of bringing millions of doses of a potential Covid-19 vaccine to the Japanese people as quickly as possible,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. “In the face of this global health crisis, Pfizer’s purpose – breakthroughs that change patients’ lives – has taken on an even greater urgency.”

The news comes amid the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics, which were originally scheduled to take place in Tokyo between July 24 and Aug. 9, but have been postponed until summer 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apart from Pfizer and BioNTech, several other companies are also running late-stage clinical trials of Covid-19 vaccines. These include Moderna’s Phase III trial of mRNA-1273, which like BNT162 is a messenger RNA vaccine, though that study is only taking place in the U.S. China’s Sinovac and British drugmaker AstraZeneca are also running Phase III trials.

Photo: Dominick Reuter, AFP, via Getty Images

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