J&J’s CEO says creating a vaccine is only ‘part of the puzzle’

Good morning.

Will a vaccine end the pandemic? At Fortune Brainstorm Health this week, there was lots of talk about the 200-plus efforts to find a COVID vaccine, and the extraordinary collaboration among companies and governments to get vaccines tested, manufactured and distributed—far faster than ever before. “We are taking what normally takes five to seven years, and doing it in five to seven months,” said Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky.

But Gorsky—whose company is one of the leaders in the vaccine race—also issued a strong warning to the group not to think of a vaccine as a silver bullet.

Gorsky said he still hopes to have “hundreds of millions” of doses of a vaccine on the market by the first quarter, and more than a billion by the end of next year. But, he said, “none of us should be thinking that this is the single solution that is going to take us back to the old normal.” There are issues about how effective the vaccine will be, how many doses it will require, and how long its protection will last.

“A vaccine, while a very critical element to bringing an end to this pandemic, is part of the puzzle.” Developing therapies for treating the disease, improving hospital protocols, continuing tactics like testing, contract tracing, social distancing and mask wearing also matter. “It is going to take a combination of all of those things to bring an end to this virus.”

In other words: Don’t expect the current health and economic challenges to end with a touchdown pass. It’s more likely to be three yards and a cloud of dust.

More from Brainstorm Health here. And by the way, this morning marks six days since I got tested for COVID-19, and I still haven’t gotten results. Testing and contract tracing won’t work with delays like that. (Fortunately, I’m symptom free.)

Alan Murray
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