Following Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), millions of doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are being shipped out to states nationwide.
"The trucks are literally rolling off the docks as we speak," the company's CEO Alex Gorsky told "Good Morning America" on Monday, "And we hope to be able to get shots in arms within literally the next 24 to 48 hours."
The single-shot inoculation from Johnson & Johnson is now the third coronavirus vaccine given authorization in the United States, as the country's vaccination effort continues to ramp up at a rapid rate.
Only a few million doses will be shipped immediately after authorization, but production will ramp up in the coming weeks. By the end of March, Johnson & Johnson has said it can supply enough to vaccinate 20 million people – a much-needed boost to stretched supplies – and by June, the company expects to supply 100 million doses to the U.S.
On "GMA," chief anchor George Stephanopoulos pressed Gorsky on falling shy of a figure of 12 million the company was expecting to have by February, but the CEO said that they are "absolutely" confident they will be able to reach their distribution goals, adding that it's "all en route to doing almost a billion doses over the course of 2021."
"We couldn't be more excited," Gorsky added. "I don't believe that we've ever been able to produce that many doses of a vaccine, let alone any medicine in that kind of time in history, so we're incredibly proud of what we've been able to do, and we couldn't be more excited."
Gorsky also reaffirmed the company's commitment to the vaccine being brought to market on a not-for-profit basis.
The CEO also spoke to NBC's "Today" show, where he said one year ago to the month that "We have a vaccine candidate that, based upon the testing we've done ... that has a high degree of probability of being successful against the COVID-19 virus."
"It's hard to believe that you and I first started this conversation about a year ago," Gorsky said to NBC's Savannah Guthrie, "And here we are now having received approval for our vaccine and literally it's on trucks as we're talking."
"This started as literally a genetic code information that was passed on an email about 12 months ago, and since then we've been able to do extensive clinical trials, involving up to 50,000 patients," Gorsky said Monday. "Trial sites around the world."
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is different from the two shots already being administered for a few reasons. The J&J vaccine requires one jab compared to Pfizer & Moderna’s two-dose regimen, and is 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe cases of coronavirus, according to findings released last month. The single-shot regimen is much more protective — 85% — against the most serious symptoms of the virus.
"All of these vaccines are incredibly effective," Gorsky said on CNBC. "Our data actually includes these most challenging, pernicious, virulent strains and what we saw was an 85% effectiveness rate in the severe disease."
Two doses of the Pfizer and Moderna shots were found to be about 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19, findings that led the FDA to pass down their respective EUAs.
And while those efficacy rates may seem startlingly different, it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison: A more recent study conducted in Israel found Pfizer’s vaccine was 92% effective at preventing severe disease after two shots and 62% after one.
J&J has another large study underway to see if a second dose of its vaccine works better, raising the prospect that countries could eventually add a booster if one turned out to be warranted.
The J&J vaccine is also easier to handle, lasting three months in the refrigerator compared to the Pfizer and Moderna options, which must be frozen.
J&J’s shot uses a cold virus like a Trojan horse to carry the “spike” protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus into the body, where cells make harmless copies of the protein to prime the immune system in case the real virus comes along.