Pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson is partnering with the U.S. government to produce up to 1 billion doses of a coronavirus vaccine for use around the world by the end of next year.
Asked on NBC’s “Today” on Monday how quickly the first vaccines could be available, CEO Alex Gorsky replied, “This is like a moonshot for us.”
“What would usually take five to seven years, we expect to be able to accomplish in five to seven months,” he said.
The company is working directly with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority at the Department of Health and Human Services.
“We have a candidate that has a high degree of probability of being successful against the COVID-19 virus,” Gorsky said.
“Now we also, very important, we’ve got the production capabilities to be able to ramp up production of this in a relatively short period of time so it can become available.”
Gorsky said he anticipates starting human testing in September and having interim study results by early next year.
The Johnson & Johnson leader said the company plans to start production of the vaccine even before it has the study’s results.
“Literally within the next few days and weeks, we’re going to start ramping up production of these vaccines as well, and we should be able to have several hundred million doses available by the middle of next year. Our goal is to have a billion prepared by the end of 2021,” he said.
Forbes reported that Johnson & Johnson entered into the $1 billion deal with the federal government to develop the vaccine late last week.
Under the terms of the agreement, the government will pay $456 million and Johnson & Johnson will cover the rest of the cost for the vaccine’s research, development and testing.
“Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie highlighted that Johnson & Johnson and other companies entering into these agreements with the government are taking a risk by producing the vaccine before even knowing if it’s effective.
“Look, that’s what we have to do in this case,” Gorsky replied.
“We’re going to do everything possible to make sure we have a safe, effective, vaccine available in the kind of quantities that can really make a difference,” he said.
Johnson & Johnson’s chief scientific officer, Dr. Paul Stoffels, also confirmed to Reuters that going to production before the vaccine is approved “is the only option for us to get it on time.”
Gorsky said his company is doing everything possible to try to accelerate the process to get a vaccine to the public.
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