Johnson & Johnson’s
Covid-19 vaccine offers enormous promise as a pathway out of the worst of the pandemic. Delivered as a single dose, without the extreme storage requirements of the vaccines from
it could speed up global inoculation if it proves effective.
But on Wednesday, the New York Times reported that the company is facing delays in the manufacturing of the vaccine that have put it up to two months behind its initial production schedule. The report comes amid growing anticipation for data from Johnson & Johnson’s (ticker: JNJ) Phase 3 trial of the vaccine, expected in the coming weeks.
Speaking at J.P. Morgan’s health care investor conference on Monday, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said that the company aimed to have “hundreds of millions of doses” of the vaccine available in the first half of this year, and “close to one billion” by the end of the year.
“We’re still on track to be able to achieve those volumes,” Gorsky said. “And again, we’re working night and day to see what else can we do to accelerate that even more in an effective and safe, compliant, high-quality manner.”
But according to Wednesday’s New York Times report, the company is falling behind on production pledges it made to the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed.
Under the terms of that deal, announced in August, the company agreed to deliver 100 million doses of its vaccine to the U.S. government for $1 billion. The company did not disclose specific production timeline targets at the time, but the New York Times reported Wednesday that it was meant to have 12 million doses ready by the end of February.
The Times says that the production schedule is now delayed by two months. A Johnson & Johnson official interviewed by the Times did not comment on production, but an Operation Warp Speed official confirmed a delay to the paper. The Times reports that the company is now expected to catch up to its original production schedule by the end of April. By then, it had planned to deliver more than 60 million doses.
“It is premature to get into the specifics of the supply of our vaccine candidate, as we do not yet have Phase 3 data, nor have we filed for or been granted Emergency Use Authorization,” the company said in a statement to Barron’s on Wednesday. “We remain in active discussions with regulators, including on the approval and validation of our manufacturing processes.” The company said production has begun, that it is confident it can meet its commitments to governments, and that it expects to make more details available “after some of these steps are achieved.”
Shares of Johnson & Johnson were down 0.5% in early trading. The stock has gained 7% over the past 12 months.
Write to Josh Nathan-Kazis at email@example.com