The Johnson & Johnson CEO Just Made This Unsettling Prediction About COVID

The end of the pandemic may not come as soon as we've been hoping.

Many of us never expected COVID to last more than a year and certainly don't want it to last another. Fortunately, the U.S. already has two COVID vaccines targeted to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Moderna and Pfizer started distributing their vaccines in December, and more are likely on their way—like Johnson & Johnson's one-shot vaccine. While this all seems like good news, health officials are being candid about how they expect the future of the pandemic to play out, and it might not be exactly what you want to hear. In fact, the Johnson & Johnson CEO just made a rather unsettling prediction about COVID. Keep reading for his thoughts on where we go from here, and for more predictions on the future, Dr. Fauci Just Said We'll Never Be Able to Do This Again.

Johnson & Johnson's CEO said we'll likely be dealing with COVID for "the next several years."

A young couple sitting on a bunch wearing face masks distances themselves from another person on the other end of the bench.
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Even though Johnson & Johnson has created a one-dose vaccine, that doesn't mean it's necessarily one shot and then you're done forever. During a Feb. 9 interview with CNBC, Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky indicated that the coronavirus behind COVID-19 may be something we're dealing with beyond this year.

"I think most people feel that this will be something where likely for, yes, the next several years we'll be getting a COVID-19 shot just like we would a flu shot," Gorsky said. "Exactly what that shot is going to be comprised of, I don't think we know today. But I think we could all imagine a future where we're living with this, but where we can keep the science at pace with the virus." And for more on the vaccine rollout, You'll Be Able to Get Vaccinated at Any Walgreens by This Date.

The future of the pandemic depends on what happens with new COVID variants.

Scientist studying COVID-19 in lab
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According to Gorsky, "a lot of it's going to depend on what happens with this virus," especially in terms of how it develops into new variants. As of right now, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has pinpointed three new, more transmissible variants that have made their way into the United States: a variant from the U.K., a variant from South Africa, and a variant from Brazil.

"You know, unfortunately, as [COVID] spreads it also can mutate. And 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, for example, to fend off antibodies or to have a different kind of response, not only to a therapeutic, but also to a vaccine," Gorsky explained. And for more on the return to normalcy, This One COVID Restriction Could Last for Years, Experts Say.

One strain has already lowered the efficacy of current vaccines.

General practitioner vaccinating old patient at home
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One strain in particular, the South Africa variant B.1.351, has already shown a resistance to current COVID vaccines. According to The New York Times, South Africa just halted the use of the AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine in their country because researchers determined that it did not prevent people from developing moderate infections. Other vaccines, such as Moderna's, Pfizer's, and Johnson & Johnson's, still appear to be effective against this strain, but less so than with previous variants—which raises concerns for how future mutations may evade these vaccines even more.

"It's becoming increasingly apparent that we're going to be stuck in this whack-a-mole reality, where we have variants that don't respond to vaccines," Andrea Taylor, PhD, the assistant director at Duke Global Health Innovation Center, told The New York Times. "We'll try to tweak those vaccines to target new variants, but because the virus will still be able to spread in some populations in some parts of the world, other variants will pop up." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Johnson & Johnson is testing a potential second dose.

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In terms of tweaking vaccines, both Moderna and Pfizer have already started working on potential booster shots to deal with emerging variants. Johnson & Johnson recently submitted data for their one-dose vaccine to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency-use authorization, which will face a vote on Feb. 26. However, just as the future of the pandemic is uncertain, so is the future of Johnson & Johnson's vaccine. The manufacturer is currently testing a second dose of the vaccine.

Mathai Mammen, MD, global head of research and development at Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, said during a Jan. 5 interview that the company was getting ready to test participants on a two-dose level, giving two doses of the vaccine spaced two months apart. "The reason we are running this second study is to see if a second dose might provide greater, or longer, protection," Mammen said.

As Gorsky explained further, after testing their one-dose vaccine in hotspot variant locations like Brazil and South Africa, Johnson & Johnson realized that emerging variants are something the manufacturer needs to "prepare for over the next several years," which may call that second dose into use. And for essential vaccine guidance, If This Happens After Your Vaccine, the FDA Says You Should Call 911.

Best Life is constantly monitoring the latest news as it relates to COVID-19 in order to keep you healthy, safe, and informed. Here are the answers to your most burning questions, the ways you can stay safe and healthy, the facts you need to know, the risks you should avoid, the myths you need to ignore,and the symptoms to be aware of. Click here for all of our COVID-19 coverage, and sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.
Kali Coleman
Kali is an assistant editor at Best Life. Read more
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