Johnson & Johnson
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  • We'll know if a single-dose coronavirus vaccine works by early next week, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said Tuesday.
  • The healthcare giant is wrapping up a massive study testing its shot against a placebo. 
  • J&J was the first manufacturer to seek registration for a coronavirus vaccine in South Africa.
  • It could be in manufacturing, in Port Elizabeth, by March – for export.
  • Visit Business Insider SA's homepage for more stories.

The world is days away from getting crucial results on one of the most important coronavirus vaccines in development.

Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said Tuesday the healthcare giant will have results from a 45,000-person study testing its single-dose Covid-19 vaccine by early next week. 

"We look forward to sharing further details of our Phase 3 study by early next week," Gorsky said on an earnings call. 

The company had previously stated it expected a readout by the end of January. The new timeline allows for a modest delay, with the possibility that results won't come until the first days of February.

Out of all the frontrunners, J&J's shot touts the simplest logistics. It's a one-dose vaccine that can be kept stable at typical refrigeration levels.

Johnson & Johnson was the first company to seek registration in SA for its Covid-19 vaccine.

Local company Aspen Pharmacare could start production of the vaccine in South Africa by late March or early April if all approvals are in place, a senior company executive said earlier this month.

Aspen confirmed it had the capacity to make up to 300 million doses of the vaccine, in a Port Elizabeth plant, and that all those doses would be earmarked for export.

See also | What you need to know about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, now in evaluation in SA

On the production front, Joseph Wolk, J&J's chief financial officer, said Tuesday he is "very confident" that J&J will meet all its finalised purchase orders.

That includes delivering 100 million doses to the United States of America by the end of June, 200 million doses to the European Union by the end of the year, and 200 million more doses to developing countries in the second half of 2021, CNBC's Meg Tirrell reported.

While J&J has previously said it plans to produce 1 billion doses in 2021, the company has also faced some production challenges and delays of up two months, The New York Times reported.

Wolk seemed to downplay those reports, although he did not directly answer if J&J still expects to produce 1 billion doses in total in 2021 when asked by a Wall Street analyst. 

"I think what we're seeing happening with a little bit of confusion is people are trying to parse this down into weeks," Wolk said. "I think the definitive statement here is that we are very comfortable in meeting our commitments to those respective countries or organisations that I just outlined," referring to the US, EU and developing nations.

J&J is also testing its vaccine as a two-dose regimen, with the second dose given two months later. Results from that ongoing trial likely won't be available until the "back-end of this year," Gorsky said.

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