Five 'coronavirus vaccine candidates selected as finalists in US' -- here's what you should know
According to a report in the New York Times, the Trump administration has selected Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca Plc, Pfizer Inc, Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co Inc as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine to beat COVID-19. The report did not mention potential vaccines from French drugmaker Sanofi, Novavax Inc and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc.
As scientists are busy finding an antidote for the novel coronavirus, the Donald Trump administration has selected five companies, including Moderna Inc, AstraZeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc, as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the highly-contagious disease, the New York Times has reported, citing senior officials.
The other companies are Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co Inc, according to a report in the daily on Wednesday. The selected companies will get access to additional government funds, help in running clinical trials, and financial and logistical support, the daily reported.
More than 6.5 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported worldwide, including at least 386,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
There is no approved vaccine for COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus. The report did not mention potential vaccines from French drugmaker Sanofi, Novavax Inc and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc -- among the more than 100 vaccines in development globally.
The announcement of the decision will be made at the White House in the next few weeks, the report said. "We cannot comment on information that is market-moving," a US Department of Health and Human Services official said.
The companies on the list are the farthest along in developing a vaccine and have significant manufacturing capacity.
The United States is planning massive clinical trials involving 100,000 to 150,000 volunteers in total, with the goal of delivering an effective vaccine by the end of this year. To make that deadline, the government aims to start mid-stage testing in July.
The first two vaccines to start mid-stage trials would likely be from Moderna and the AstraZeneca/Oxford University combination, the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr Francis Collins, told Reuters in an interview last month.
He said he expected vaccine candidates from J&J and Merck to eventually join the trial effort.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Tuesday that he hoped to have "a couple hundred million doses" by the start of 2021, according to a CNN report.
Fauci said the first vaccine candidate, made by Moderna in partnership with NIAID, should go into a final stage of trials in volunteers, known as Phase 3, by mid-summer. Preparations at national and international sites are already under way, he said.
"The real business end of this all will be the Phase 3 that starts in the first week of July, hopefully," Fauci said. "We want to get as many datapoints as we can." Phase 3 will involve about 30,000 people.
The vaccine will be tested in people ages 18 to 55, as well as in the elderly and in people who have underlying health conditions. "It's going to be the entire spectrum," Fauci said.
He said Phase 2 of the trial started a few days ago. A few hundred volunteers will be involved in that part of the trial. The plan is to manufacture doses of the vaccine even before it is clear whether it will work, making close to 100 million doses by November or December, Fauci said. If it does work, then it can be deployed quickly.
Scientists should have enough data by November or December to determine if the vaccine works, Fauci said.