Operation Warp Speed, which is a public-private partnership launched by the Trump administration to speed up the development and production of a COVID-19 vaccine, announced yesterday that it had shortlisted five vaccines to be facilitated under its program. The announcement comes as a surprise to many scientists who claim the process is not transparent.
According to the officials in the White House, the five selected vaccines are reportedly under development by Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, University of Oxford, Merck, and Pfizer. The Trump government hopes to vaccinate 300 million Americans by the start of next year.
Under the program, the US government will facilitate these companies by providing them financial help in the form of up to $2 billion. Furthermore, the government will also help them run clinical trials and provide them with manufacturing and logistical support.
It is unclear what the criteria for selection were. One of the shortlisted companies, Pfizer, said earlier this year that they were already in the process of developing a vaccine for coronavirus and they preferred to work on their own without any government funding because that would only slow down the process.
Scientists from multiple companies have also voiced out their concerns, questioning the selection criteria, and saying that the entire program has been very unclear. This comes after Operation Warp Speed unexpectedly went back on its initial plan to perform a comparative analysis of 14 different vaccines as a part of its shortlisting process.
Peter Hotez, who is a part of the committee meant to assist and advise Warp Speed, said that their opinion was not taken before the decision was made. He further said that they have no insight into the decision-making process, and both the programs are completely alienated.
Another researcher raised his concerns by saying that the vaccines were chosen based on a manufacturing point of view without taking into consideration their scientific viability. All five vaccines only use three different technologies, and so far, only two of the vaccines have published data regarding clinical trials.