Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration's initiative to hasten the development of a safe and effective vaccine for the Wuhan coronavirus, appears to be working. The president announced on Wednesday that Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine candidate has reached the third and final stage of clinical testing in "record time."
"This is record time," Trump said at a press briefing on Wednesday. "This is the fourth vaccine candidate in the United States to reach the final stage of trials, so we have four candidates already..."
The president said that Johnson & Johnson had originally forecasted their vaccine candidate to enter phase one trials beginning in September. But thanks in large part to Operation Warp Speed, the vaccine candidate is already in the final stage of clinical trials.
The company will enroll up to 60,000 volunteers from across three continents to study and the safety and efficacy of their vaccine candidate in preventing COVID-19 infections compared to a placebo. Trump called on Americans to enroll.
"We encourage Americans to enroll in the vaccine trial ... it will be a terrific thing for our country," the president said.
According to The New York Times, the drugmaker is using a method for making vaccines out of a virus called Adrenovirus 26. Johnson & Johnson has produced other vaccines for Ebola and other diseases using the Adrenovirus 26 virus.
Johnson & Johnson received $456 million to the U.S. government to help produce the vaccine candidate and the vaccine has been shown to provide protection in experiments carried out on monkeys. The U.S. has agreed to pay $1 billion for 100 million doses of the vaccine if the drug receives approval from the FDA. The Trump administration has also awarded some $200 million in CARES Act funding to all 50 states in order to help distribute a vaccine as soon as one is approved.
If demonstrated to be safe and effective, Johnson and Johnson expects its COVID-19 vaccine to be available for emergency use authorization on a not-for-profit basis starting in early 2021.