Vaccinologists say a vaccine for coronavirus could take at least 18 months to develop, a number that worries many wishing it could be faster. There are nearly 35 companies and academic institutions trying to create a vaccine, and four of them have prototypes being tested in animals. The World Health Organization is also coordinating efforts to develop vaccines and medicines to prevent and remedy COVID-19.
It has been announced today, March 30, 2020, that Johnson & Johnson has partnered with the U.S. government through a $1 billion deal to boost their coronavirus vaccine efforts. Much of the funding will go towards developing facilities in order to have the capacity to manufacture more than one billion doses of the vaccine. Specifically, part of the deal is that the U.S. government will pay $421 million to reinforce the company’s efforts to build new manufacturing infrastructure within the United States. Johnson & Johnson has a manufacturing plant in the Netherlands that can make up to 300 million doses of vaccine, Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels said, pointing out that the plant “absolutely will not be sufficient for the world.”
Stoffels has said that “We have dozens of scientists working on this so we’re pretty confident we can get something made that will work and stay active for the longer term.” However, he followed up with the comment that the vaccine could take up to a year to reach the market. A lead vaccine candidate created by Johnson & Johnson has been selected and could start human testing by September, with the goal of having it ready under an emergency use authorization in early 2021, much quicker than the typical 18 month period that vaccines usually take to be tested, approved, and then manufactured.
The company will start making the vaccine without knowing for sure if it works, with the intention that they beat the odds and succeed, getting it out on time before the loss of more human life. Stoffels said the coronavirus vaccine will be produced based on the same technology used to make J&J’s Ebola vaccine, which has been used in people across the world, and the company believes it will prove to be safe. Almost half of the $1 billion will come from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), which seeks to expand on Johnson & Johnson’s previous collaboration with BARDA.
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