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Johnson & Johnson CEO Believes Annual COVID-19 Vaccines Will Be Needed

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky believes that individuals will have to get annual COVID-19 vaccines for several years.

“Unfortunately, as [the virus] spreads it can also mutate,” he said. “Every time it mutates, it’s almost like another click of the dial so to speak where we can see another variant, another mutation that can have an impact on its ability to fend off antibodies or to have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine.”

Public health officials and infectious disease experts have forecasted that COVID-19 could become an endemic disease, meaning that it will be present forever at lower levels. Health officials will be required to study the disease and develop vaccines for new strains.

Johnson and Johnson has applied for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its COVID-19 vaccine. JnJ's vaccine is only one dose which would make it easier on distributors that have struggled with two-dose vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. However, JnJ's vaccine only proved to be 66 percent effective in preventing the virus, lower than Pfizer or Moderna. The FDA has scheduled a meeting on February 26 to discuss approving JnJ's vaccine.

In August, the Department of Health and Human Services reached a deal with JnJ's pharma subsidiary, Janssen, to purchase 100 million doses of its vaccine with an option to purchase an additional 200 million.

Gorsky stated that the company is working "full speed" to produce COVID vaccines while it awaits authorization from the FDA. “We will meet our commitments and at the same time we’re doing everything we possibly can to safely and effectively accelerate” production, he said.

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