Johnson & Johnson CEO on Merck Vaccine Partnership: “Extraordinary Times Require Extraordinary Effort”

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

“Extraordinary times require extraordinary effort,” said Gorsky Jim Cramer of CNBC in a “Mad Money” interview.

“This means that Americans will get gunshots in the arm faster and we are very excited to see the possible overall impact this can have on the situation,” said Gorsky. “I think it’s another … proof of the potential this vaccine really has.”

Coronavirus vaccines are seen as critical to helping the country and world achieve herd immunity. This would allow the US to safely reopen fully 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’s also 86% effective in preventing serious illnesses and it prevents 100% of virus-related hospitalizations and deaths, Gorsky said on CNBC on Monday. Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines, who worked with BioNTech to develop the vaccine, have been shown to be 95% effective against the virus.

Under the agreement, Merck will offer two US facilities to help manufacture J&J vaccines.

“The real war here is against Covid-19, and I couldn’t think of a better partner than Merck, a company with an incredibly good reputation,” said Gorsky of his rival who became the partner. “We believe this will greatly expand our capabilities in both the short and long term.”

The comments came after President Joe Biden said Tuesday that by the end of May the US will have enough vaccines to vaccinate everyone in the US. That’s two months ahead of the administration’s original goal.

The FDA approved J & J’s single-shot Covid vaccine for weekend emergency. After the company received regulatory approval, Gorsky said J&J signed a manufacturing agreement with Merck and the federal government to expedite the manufacture of vials.

Around 4 million doses of the J&J vaccine are expected to be dispensed in the U.S. this week, and an additional 16 million doses are expected to be available by the end of March.

The partnership follows a partnership between two other drug manufacturers earlier this year. French drug maker Sanofi said in January it would help improve supplies of Pfizer’s two-shot vaccine. Moderna has also signed a contract with Swiss company Lonza to help make its own two-shot vaccine.

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