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US Pharmaceutical Giant Says COVID Vaccine Could Be Ready for Emergency Use by Early 2021

A researcher at Protein Sciences works in a lab, March 12, 2020, in Meriden, Conn. The biotech company is currently researching a vaccine for COVID-19.

U.S. pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson says human testing of its experimental coronavirus vaccine will begin by September and says the vaccine could be available for emergency use by early next year.

The company said Monday that it has jointly committed more than $1 billion to develop and test a vaccine along with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It said if human trials of the vaccine are successful, it is prepared to produce more than 1 billion doses of the vaccine.

Johnson & Johnson said it anticipates the first batches of the vaccine would be ready for use under emergency situations by early 2021.

Company CEO Alex Gorsky told NBC’s “Today” program that early indications from the research show the experimental vaccine would likely be effective.

“We have a candidate that has a high degree of probability of being successful against the COVID-19 virus,” he said.

“We’ve got the production capabilities to be able to ramp up production of this in a relatively short period of time so it can become available,” he added.

Gorsky said the company is planning to increase production of the vaccine in the coming weeks, with the goal to have several hundred million doses available by the middle of next year and to have a billion doses by the end of 2021.

Johnson & Johnson said it is pursuing the vaccine on a “not-for-profit basis” but did not estimate how much it could cost the consumer. Shares of the company jumped in Monday’s trading.

Another U.S. company, Moderna Therapeutics of Cambridge, Massachusetts, in partnership with the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has already begun human trials of its version of a coronavirus vaccine.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Monday that it is working with both Johnson & Johnson and Moderna to speed the development of a vaccine.

In statement, the department said it would work with the companies and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “to streamline the development and regulatory processes in order to make a safe and effective vaccine available as quickly as possible.”

All potential vaccines must go through several phases of testing to prove they work and are safe. Scientists are carefully monitoring all test subjects to see if the experimental vaccines are inducing an immune response for the coronavirus as well as checking the patients for any potential side effects.

Scientists around the world, including in China where the virus began, are also working on a developing a vaccine against COVID-19.