The Trump administration has selected five companies, including Moderna Inc, Astra Zeneca Plc and Pfizer Inc, as the most likely candidates to produce a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing senior officials.
The other two companies are Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co Inc, according to the paper.
The selected companies will get access to additional government funds, help in running clinical trials, and financial and logistical support, the paper reported.
There is no approved vaccine for COVID-19 caused by the new coronavirus.
The report did not mention potential vaccines from French drug-maker Sanofi, Novavax Inc and Inovio Pharmaceuticals Inc – among the more than 100 in development globally.
It was not immediately clear if Wednesday’s move had any impact on those programs.
The announcement of the decision will be made at the White House in the next few weeks, according to the report.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“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 that trial would likely be from Moderna and the Astra Zeneca/Oxford University combination, the National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins told Reuters in an interview last month.
He also said he expected vaccine candidates from J&J and Merck to eventually join the trial effort.
None of the companies were immediately available for comment.