Merck stops development on COVID vaccine, while Johnson & Johnson moves closer to federal approval
New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck is canceling its work on two experimental COVID-19 vaccines.
The decision comes after only the first phase of clinical trials. Data showed the immune response in volunteers was “inferior” to the existing COVID vaccines developed by Moderna and Pfizer and to those who naturally were infected with the virus.
Merck Research Laboratories president Dr. Dean Li said in a statement, "We are grateful to our collaborators who worked with us on these vaccine candidates and to the volunteers in the trials. We are resolute in our commitment to contribute to the global effort to relieve the burden of this pandemic on patients, health care systems and communities."
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Merck only started to develop its own vaccine in late 2020, around the same time Moderna and Pfizer were getting federal approval. The company is now developing treatments to help speed up recovery for those with COVID-19.
If Merck’s vaccine was successful, it would have been a major help with the vaccine supply, as New Jersey is still only seeing 100,000 doses per week. It is a big reason for the slow rollout.
This is where pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson is hoping to help. The company is promising to bring 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the market by April.
"Additional manufacturers like Johnson & Johnson will likely be approved in the coming weeks, adding to our vaccine supply,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.
Johnson & Johnson is testing a vaccine that requires only one dose and can be stored using normal refrigeration. It also uses adenovirus, which carries a gene from the coronavirus to help the immune system fight the virus. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use messenger RNA.
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is still involved with clinical trials. It has been reported that FDA approval could likely come by the end of January.