A Johnson & Johnson board member said the company is aiming to have enough doses of its Covid-19 vaccine available by “April or so” to inoculate 100 million Americans, assuming the clinical trials are successful.
Speaking on CNBC Thursday, Dr. Mark McClellan, a former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration who sits on the board of Johnson & Johnson (ticker: JNJ), said the company is working to maximize production of the vaccine.
“Johnson & Johnson is making a very large supply, going all out with its production both here in the U.S. and elsewhere around the world, with the goal of having perhaps enough vaccines for 100 million Americans by spring, by this April or so,” McClellan said. “So that’s going to make a big difference in supply available over the coming weeks and months, if the clinical trial does work out.”
Data from a Phase 3 trial of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine are expected in the coming days. The trial tests the vaccine as a single-dose, rather than the two-dose regimen required by the two Covid-19 vaccines currently authorized for emergency use by the FDA.
Shares of Johnson & Johnson were up 0.6% on Friday morning in premarket trading. The stock is up 2.8% this month and 9% over the past 12 months.
Last week, Johnson & Johnson’s CEO said the company aimed to have hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine available in the first half of the year, and nearly a billion by the end of the year. The New York Times later reported the company had hit production snags, but the company has not stepped back from its long-term production goals.
The vaccine is expected to be slightly less effective than the currently available Pfizer (PFE) and Moderna (MRNA) vaccines. Last week, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, then chief advisor to the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed, said he expected the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would demonstrate 80 to 85% efficacy in its trial. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines demonstrated around 95% efficacy. But Slaoui said that the single-dose regimen has significant advantages.
“What people need to realize is that in real life, a very large percentage of people immunized with the first dose will not get their second dose, for various reasons,” Slaoui said at a health-care investor conference organized by J.P. Morgan.
In a note to investors on Thursday night, Jefferies health-care trading-desk analyst Jared Holz wrote that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would need to show an efficacy of 80% or more to be seen as a competitor to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
“JNJ’s one injection vs. two is a key differentiator and one justification as to why efficacy could fall short of PFE/MRNA and still be considered a respectable treatment option,” Holz wrote.
The data on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, when it comes, will have ripple effects across the market. Holz noted that the Phase 3 data releases on the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines moved the S&P 500 around 1.5% each.
“We do not anticipate the market will move quite as high in the event JNJ reports success but do believe another player entering the market would result in further positive momentum,” he wrote.