Merck Stops Development of COVID-19 Vaccines

Merck Stops Development of COVID-19 Vaccines
A logo of drugs and chemicals group Merck KGaA in Darmstadt, Germany, on Jan. 28, 2016. (Ralph Orlowski/Reuters)
Zachary Stieber

Merck said it’s stopping development of both of its COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

The candidates in studies “were generally well tolerated, but the immune responses were inferior to those seen following natural infection and those reported for other SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 vaccines,” the New Jersey-based company said in a statement on Jan. 25.

COVID-19 is the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus. The CCP virus is also known as SARS-CoV-2.
Merck’s studies were in phase 1, meaning the vaccines weren’t close to being fully developed. Merck signed a deal with the U.S. government last year to supply up to 100,000 vaccine doses.

The company is now focusing on two therapeutic candidates for the virus.

“We are grateful to our collaborators who worked with us on these vaccine candidates and to the volunteers in the trials,” Dr. Dean Li, president of Merck Research Laboratories, said in a statement. “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.”

Two COVID-19 vaccines have been authorized for emergency use in the United States. One is made by Moderna; the other is from Pfizer and BioNTech.

A slew of other companies are still developing or testing vaccines. AstraZeneca’s vaccine has been authorized or approved for use in nearly a dozen countries, while several Chinese and Russian vaccines have received approval in the countries of development and other nations. India recently approved its own vaccine, Covaxin.

A candidate from Johnson & Johnson is believed to be close to authorization in the United States and could be the next vaccine authorized.

“I would be surprised if it was any more than two weeks from now that the data will be analyzed and decisions would be made,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top health adviser to President Joe Biden, said on MSNBC on Jan. 22.