Johnson & Johnson expects Covid-19 vaccine data next week

Drug giant promises to meet delivery targets agreed with countries on vaccine doses

Johnson & Johnson expects to report data on its Covid-19 vaccine early next week and said it would be able to meet the delivery target for doses to countries with which it had signed supply agreements.

Johnson & Johnson expects to report data on its Covid-19 vaccine early next week and said it would be able to meet the delivery target for doses to countries with which it had signed supply agreements.

 

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday said it expected to report eagerly-awaited data on its Covid-19 vaccine early next week, and that it would be able to meet the delivery target for doses to countries with which it had signed supply agreements.

The release of the phase 3 trial data for its vaccine may show whether the jab works just as well against the virus variant that emerged in South Africa, because some of the J&J trial sites were in the country.

Chief executive Alex Gorsky said he was hopeful that the current data showed a “durable” and “sustainable” response, following positive results in earlier trials.

“We’ll get out information as soon as we can, regarding some of the variants. Obviously we’re watching that closely, based on some of the regional, geographical differences that we’ve seen,” he said.

The company’s comments about meeting agreed delivery targets was pointed in the context of the ongoing row between the European Union and British-based rival AstraZeneca over last minute delays that could see EU states left 60 per cent short of supplies.

Concerns have also arisen in media reports about the suitability of the AstraZeneca vaccine for older people.

Addressing the issue before the European Parliament on Tuesday, the Irish woman leading the European Medicines Agency, Emer Cooke, said trial data in the file presented to the regulator by the British company so far included a “very small” number of older people.

Single shot

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine could be the first approved as a single shot, making it more convenient than the already authorised jabs. The company is also testing two doses, but that data will not be available until later in the year.

Public health officials are increasingly counting on single-dose options to simplify and boost national inoculation campaigns, given the complications and slower-than-hoped rollout of authorised vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, which require second shots weeks after the first.

AstraZeneca, which was yet to be approved in the EU, has had even more complications to date. These have undermined confidence that, with its low price and ability to be stored at standard temperatures, it could prove a game changer in managing the global pandemic.

Johnson & Johnson’s comments came as it announced quarterly results. The company also forecast 2021 profit well above Wall Street estimates, and its shares rose 3.4 per cent to $171.55.

The outlook does not include any contribution from the Covid-19 vaccine, chief financial officer Joseph Wolk said.

He added that pricing of the vaccine would depend on the number of doses secured by countries and organisations.

“We will let the science play out. Once we have the data, obtain regulatory authorization and finalise agreements to supply, we will provide financial updates as warranted,” he said on a conference call.

Separately yesterday, French pharma group Sanofi said it will fill and pack millions of doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine from July in an effort to help meet the huge demand for the US drugmaker’s shots.

It will aim to help supply more than 100 million doses of the vaccine this year from its German plant in Frankfurt, chief executive Paul Hudson told Le Figaro newspaper on Tuesday. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are struggling to meet the huge demand for shots that are the world’s best bet for overcoming the pandemic.

Results

Johnson & Johnson said its medical device unit continued to recover despite the recent surge in Covid-19. The division was hit hard earlier in the pandemic by a decrease in elective and non-urgent procedures like hip and knee replacement as people avoided care or hospitals were forced to suspend such procedures.

Fourth-quarter sales in the unit fell marginally to $6.59 billion. Adjusted profit of $1.86 per share beat estimates of $1.82 per share, helped by double-digit sales growth of Crohn’s disease drug Stelara and cancer treatment Darzalex.

Stelara sales grew 32 per cent to $2.44 billion, while sales of Darzalex jumped nearly 60 per cent to $1.25 billion.

J&J forecast 2021 adjusted profit of between $9.40 and $9.60 per share, compared with analysts’ estimates of $8.99 per share. – Reuters / The Financial Times Limited 2021