Despite a paucity of scientific evidence that has prompted many experts to warn that these decisions are dangerously premature, the White House has reportedly selected five companies as "the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine", in keeping with "Project Warpspeed", Trump's White House-based initiative to start mass-innoculation by the end of the year.
The five companies mentioned are Moderna, AstraZeneca, J&J, Merck, and Pfizer. The decision will reportedly be made over the next few weeks.
The Trump administration has selected five companies as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the coronavirus, senior officials said, a critical step in the White House’s effort to deliver on its promise of being able to start widespread inoculation of Americans by the end of the year.
By winnowing the field in a matter of weeks from a pool of around a dozen companies, the federal government is betting that it can identify the most promising vaccine projects at an early stage, speed along the process of determining which will work and ensure that the winner or winners can be quickly manufactured in huge quantities and distributed across the country.
The announcement of the decision will be made at the White House in the next few weeks, government officials said. Dr. Fauci apparently hinted at the coming action on Tuesday when he told a medical seminar that "by the beginning of 2021 we hope to have a couple of hundred million doses," according to the NYT, though this isn't the first time Dr. Fauci has made that claim. It is, after all, the stated goal of "Project Warp Speed".
Moderna has long been a White House favorite: Its vaccine candidate is already participating in a trial being run in partnership with the NIH. When Moderna released an extremely preliminary statement about its progress last month, the White House "Vaccine Czar", a former board member, cashed in $12 million in options.
Dr. Fauci has said he expects Moderna to enter the final phase of clinical trials as soon as next month. The alliance between Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which has received a fair amount of coverage, is on a similar track. Meanwhile, three pharma giants - Johnson & Johnson, Merck and Pfizer - are each taking what the NYT described as a "somewhat different" approach.
However, most experts believe the White House's goal is unrealistic. Developing vaccines is notoriously tricky, and early reports about an 18-24 month timeline are based on guesswork by "credible" officials like Dr. Fauci.
This leak is just the latest attempt by the White House to keep pumping market confidence with overhyped vaccine-linked headlines.
Hot biotech stocks like Inovio and Novavax sold off after they weren't mentioned in the NYT report.