‘Extraordinary times require extraordinary efforts’

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky on Tuesday discussed the company’s unprecedented partnership with rival Merck to boost production of its Covid-19 vaccine.

“Extraordinary times require extraordinary efforts,” Gorsky told CNBC’s Jim Cramer in a “Mad Money” interview.

“What this means is that the Americans will get shots in the arm faster and we are very excited about the potential impact this can have on the situation overall,” Gorsky said. “I think it’s another … testament to the potential that this vaccine really has.”

Vaccines against the coronavirus are considered essential to help the country and the world achieve herd immunity. This would allow the United States to fully reopen safely after a year of lockdowns and restrictions that weighed on the economy.

J & J’s vaccine was 66% effective in preventing Covid during clinical trials. It is also 86% effective in preventing serious illness and prevented 100% of virus-related hospitalizations and deaths, Gorsky said Monday on CNBC. The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, who worked with BioNTech to develop their inoculation, have been shown to be 95% effective in protecting against the virus.

Merck will offer two facilities in the US to assist with J & J’s vaccine production as part of the deal.

“The real war here is against Covid-19, and I couldn’t think of a better partner than Merck, a company with an incredibly strong reputation,” Gorsky said of his competitor-turned-partner. “We believe it will significantly increase our capabilities in both the short and long term.”

The comments came after President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the US will have enough vaccines to inoculate everyone in the US at the end of May. That’s two months before the administration’s initial goal.

The FDA approved J & J’s single-shot Covid vaccine for emergency use over the weekend. After the company received the go-ahead from regulators, Gorsky said J&J signed a production agreement with Merck and the federal government to speed up vial manufacturing.

About 4 million doses of the J&J vaccine are expected to be delivered in the United States this week, with another 16 million doses expected to be available by the end of March.

The partnership follows one between two other drug makers earlier this year. French drugmaker Sanofi said in January it would help increase supply of Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine. Moderna also has an agreement with the Swiss company Lonza to help manufacture its own two-shot vaccine.


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