Story at a glance

  • Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said people will likely have to get annual COVID-19 shots.
  • “Every time it mutates, it’s almost like another click of the dial so to speak where we can see another variant, another mutation that can have an impact on its ability to fend off antibodies or to have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine,” Gorsky said.
  • His comments come amid growing concerns about the rise of new variants that could potentially affect the efficacy of the current vaccines being administered.

People may need to get annual coronavirus vaccinations in the years to come, similar to flu shots, as COVID-19 could become an endemic disease, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said Tuesday. 

During an interview with CNBC, Gorsky said mutations of the coronavirus will require regular changes to vaccines to remain effective against the virus. 


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“I think most people feel that this will be something where likely for the next several years we’ll be getting a COVID-19 shot just like we would a flu shot. Now exactly what that shot’s going to be comprised of, I don’t think we know today,” Gorsky told the outlet.

“Every time it mutates, it’s almost like another click of the dial so to speak where we can see another variant, another mutation that can have an impact on its ability to fend off antibodies or to have a different kind of response not only to a therapeutic but also to a vaccine,” Gorsky said

His comments come amid growing concerns about the rise of new variants that could potentially affect the efficacy of the current vaccines being administered. So far, vaccines appear to provide adequate protection against new variants, although there has been some data suggesting some vaccines may be less effective in combating a strain first identified in South Africa. 

Vaccine manufacturers are watching for new variants to update vaccines to fight them. 

Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson last week applied for emergency use authorization in the U.S. for its COVID-19 vaccine and is expected to do the same in Europe in the coming weeks. 

The request in the U.S. followed the release of late-stage clinical trials that found Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was 66 percent effective at preventing moderate and severe disease. However, efficacy dropped from 72 percent in the U.S. to 57 percent in South Africa where the B.1.351 strain first identified in the country has become dominant. Despite that, South Africa plans to begin administering the unapproved shot to health care workers. 

The move comes after South Africa paused rollout of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine Sunday after a small study suggested it was not effective against the South African variant. 

The shot has certain advantages over other vaccines currently being administered across the world from Pfizer and Moderna. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine only requires one shot — unlike other vaccines that require two several weeks apart — and doesn’t need to be stored in subzero temperatures. 


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Published on Feb 10, 2021