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J&J CEO: 'We're doing this for the long run'

Anjalee Khemlani
·Senior Reporter
·4-min read
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Johnson & Johnson's (JNJ) COVID-19 vaccine is on its way to states Monday after the vaccine received a series of necessary regulatory approvals over the weekend.

The vaccine, developed by J&J's Janssen pharmaceutical arm, gives the U.S. three vaccine options, and a new technology as well — adenovirus vector vaccine.

J&J CEO Alex Gorsky told Yahoo Finance Live Monday that the company remains committed to providing the vaccine at no profit and remains on track to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March and 100 million doses in total by June.

"Trucks are rolling as we speak. We hope to have ... 3.9 million doses out over the next 24 to 48 hours here in the United States," Gorsky said.

The authorization marks an important milestone for the company, which is relying on a new viral vector technology to deliver the vaccine — one which could open the doors to a broader market.

"We're doing this for the long run, because we realized that this virus isn't going to go away overnight," Gorsky said, noting that the company has invested significantly in in-house and partnerships for manufacturing the vaccine at a large scale.

But the investment isn't just for COVID-19. Like other companies whose new technologies have set the stage for application in other disease areas, J&J is also thinking similarly.

"The kind of volumes that we're talking about this year, well into next year, we're already working on other potential applications with additional variants. And we're also looking at vaccines not only for COVID-19, but also for other areas in our portfolio," Gorsky said.

Also like other vaccine companies, except for Pfizer (PFE)/ BioNTech (BNTX) the federal government played a role in developing the new platform.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a press briefing Monday that the U.S. government's role in the development of J&J's vaccine spans several years — which helped the company reach authorization as quickly as it did.

The National Institutes of Health contributed through "basic, pre-clinical and clinical research to develop the viral vector in J&J's vaccine," Fauci said.

Dr. Dan Barouch, Harvard Medical School's professor of medicine and immunology, previously told Yahoo Finance that it's important that the government invests in vaccines to get multiple options out to the public as soon as possible.

J&J received the necessary approvals over the weekend, setting the stage for vaccine administration this week.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisory panel recommended the vaccine for emergency use unanimously on Friday, followed by the FDA issuing the emergency use authorization (EUA) Saturday evening. On Sunday, an advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (DCD) also recommended approval and the CDC director approved the vaccine the same day.

"As vaccination scales up, so too does our nation’s overall protection from serious outcomes due to COVID-19. The Janssen vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective in preventing severe COVID-19 illness, hospitalization, and death," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement Sunday.

White House COVID-19 Response Team officials said Monday the 3.9 million doses represents the entirety of doses on-hand for the company and will reach states as early as Tuesday. This means that while J&J vaccines will be available this week, there will be an uneven stock of available vaccines in the first few weeks.

Walensky said Monday the new vaccine will help alleviate some of the the supply issues plaguing the country's chaotic rollout. In particular, the vaccine being a single dose and only requiring normal refrigeration temperatures makes it a far easier option.

"Having multiple types of vaccine available ... offers more flexibility. For example, clinics and mass vaccination sites that do not have freezer capacity may be able to use the Janssen vaccine, increasing access to more communities," Walensky said.

Meanwhile, vaccine appointments remain elusive in some parts of the country, a point officials said the federal government is working on as it prepares to open up vaccinations to the general public in coming months.

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