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"This is the culmination of more than a year of day and night efforts," said Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky

By Maria Pasquini
March 01, 2021 12:44 PM
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Distribution of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine is already underway, with 4 million doses expected to arrive at sites across the United States as soon as Tuesday morning. 

"Literally it's on trucks as we're talking," Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said during a Monday morning appearance on Today

"We think literally within about the next 24-48 hours American should start receiving shots in arms," he continued. "This is the culmination of more than a year of day and night efforts on the part of our physicians, our scientists, our engineers, to have a safe, effective single shot."

The vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is the third approved to fight the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, following the authorization of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine. It is the first that requires only one shot and the first that can be stored at normal refrigerator temperatures for months at a time.

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine was authorized for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday. The following day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the vaccine to adults 18 years and older in the U.S.

The United States has already placed an order for 100 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine — and although production delays have lessened the amount of doses that are immediately available, the company is confident about being able to deliver what they've promised.

"We're committed to doing 100 million by June of this year and up to a billion by the end of 2021," Gorsky said on Monday. "And it's also important to remember that when we say 100 million doses by June, that means 100 million vaccinations. Patients who will have been treated"

Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Credit: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Gorsky also spoke to questions about the effectiveness of the vaccine.  

Earlier this month, the FDA released a report confirming that the vaccine is 66 percent effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19 cases — a difference from Pfizer and Moderna's numbers, 95 percent and 94 percent, respectively. 

"How do you address that perception problem that somehow this might be a second tier vaccine?" asked Today anchor Savannah Guthrie.

In his response, Gorsky noted "it's really important to remember" that their vaccine trials, which took place around the world, were conducted when there were more variants and infections.

"When you look at the numbers around the vaccine, the ones that are the most important is that it works 85 percent of the time against severe disease and it kept all of the patients out of the hospital and from dying, even against these new and really challenging variants," Gorsky said. 

"We think consumers, the patients here in this country and around the world should have a lot of confidence, a lot of trust in knowing that they're getting a safe and effective one shot vaccine," he added.

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Johnson & Johnson has also announced that they hope to start trials on adolescents and pregnant women.

"We're literally in conversations with the FDA as we speak," Gorsky said, noting that the goal is to make their vaccine available for "children and women around the world."

"We're very confident in these programs," he said.

Johnson & Johnson plans to eventually include infants and newborns in the trials, although an exact time line has not been specified, according to The New York Times.

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Earlier this month, top U.S. medical groups recommended that pregnant women should get vaccinated against COVID-19, especially because they are at a higher risk for severe illness.  

Due to the high-speed race to find a viable COVID-19 vaccine, pregnant women were not intentionally included in trials — but 23 women in the Pfizer trial did become pregnant after receiving the vaccine, and none had any adverse effects.

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