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J&J CEO says single-shot Covid vaccine will keep people out of the hospital, prevent deaths

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky told CNBC on Monday that the company’s Covid-19 vaccine will be an important tool in the fight against the coronavirus because it prevents hospitalizations and keeps people from dying.

The FDA on Saturday authorized J&J’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use, making it the third shot to be approved for distribution in the U.S. and the only vaccine that requires just one dose. Clinical trial data shows J&J’s vaccine is 66% effective overall at protecting against Covid, compared with about 95% for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.

Some people have questioned whether they should get J&J’s vaccine due to the lower effectiveness rate. While the efficacy rate is lower, the most important finding of the vaccine is that it prevented 100% of virus-related hospitalizations and deaths, Gorsky said.

“There’s a lot of different ways to try and do comparisons,” Gorsky said in an interview with CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “But when you really look at what’s the objective here, keeping people out of the hospital, keeping people from dying, we believe this is an incredibly important tool to be added — to health-care systems let alone for patients around the world.”

Gorsky also said J&J’s results can’t be directly compared to the two other vaccines because the trial was conducted when there were more coronavirus infections and tested in countries such as South Africa, where the highly contagious B.1.351 is rapidly spreading.

“All of these vaccines are incredibly effective,” he added.

In recent weeks, U.S. health officials have pushed Americans to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. Officials are growing concerned about new, emerging variants of the virus, particularly the B.1.351 strain, which has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of vaccines both on the market and under development.

Gorsky said the faster world leaders can get everybody vaccinated, the lower the chance for new, emerging variants to take hold. He added the company is confident the vaccine can deal with new strains.

Senior administration officials said Sunday that health-care providers will begin receiving the first 3.9 million doses of the J&J vaccine on Tuesday. The shipment is J&J’s entire stockpile of doses, the officials said. The company expects to ship16 million more doses by the end of March.

The company has said it plans to ship the vaccine, which contains five doses per vial, at 36 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit. By comparison, Pfizer’s vaccine needs to be stored in ultra-cold freezers that keep it between minus 112 and minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit, though the FDA recently allowed the company to store its vaccine for two weeks at temperatures commonly found in pharmaceutical freezers. Moderna’s vaccine needs to be shipped at 13 below to 5 degrees above zero Fahrenheit.

“Here we are a year later on the cusp of literally having 100 million doses delivered to the United States by the end of June. Close to 1 billion around the world by the end of this year,” Gorsky said Monday. “Just a remarkable achievement. While our doctors, our scientist, our engineers are incredibly proud and humble, I think it also gives a lot of hope to our country and to the world.”

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