The New York Times first reported the news that the US government had chosen which companies’ vaccine candidates it would help progress against the COVID-19 pandemic.
The five companies are Moderna, AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Pfizer. Each of the companies’ vaccines are at various stages of development but have been deemed the most promising by the US government.
In particular, Moderna and AZ’s vaccines have already launched into Phase II trials, with plans to move into Phase III later this year.
This could potentially see the vaccines fulfil the stated aim of ‘Operation Warp Speed’, which is to have an effective vaccine ready for US citizens by January 2021.
Previously, it was stated that any vaccines chosen would have funding made available for the expansion of manufacturing and the setting up of clinical trials, which would be facilitated by the government setting the relevant protocols.
To further ease the selected vaccines’ path, additional specialized materials and resources, including glass vials and cold-chain storage, would be purchased by the US government. In May, the US had already secured $138m (€127m) worth of prefilled syringes for any potential vaccine.
Companies left behind
Despite the list of lead companies and their vaccine candidates, including what are thought of as the leading efforts across the industry, certain other promising leads have been left out.
For example, Novavax’s vaccine is moving forward towards a Phase II study and has already secured production capacity to produce one billion doses in 2021, but the company did not make the list.
In addition, Sanofi and GSK have partnered to progress the former’s vaccine candidate. However, the French company became embroiled in a national debate, after the CEO suggested that the US market would be prioritized.
A position it was forced to walk back on, after the public backlash it received – it is not clear whether this played any role on Sanofi missing out on receiving further US government support.
Fauci provides update
Anthony Fauci, director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in an interview yesterday, with the JAMA Network, said that he was “cautiously optimistic” about the possibility for the development of a successful vaccine.
The reason he was positive, he stated, was that evidence suggesting the human body was capable of producing an immune response that cleared the virus. He equated this to “a pretty good proof-of-concept to say that you’re going to make an immune response in response to a vaccine.”
However, he clarified that there’s no guarantee that it is always possible to develop an effective vaccine. One of Fauci’s primary concerns is the ‘durability of response’ to a vaccine.
“If you look at the duration of protection when you recover from one of the benign coronaviruses that cause the common cold, the durability is only measured in a year or less,” he stated.