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

July 9, 2020, 10:24 AM UTC

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


Three million

U.S. COVID-19 cases have surpassed 3 million, only a week after hitting the 2 million mark. The country also hit another one-day record, with 60,000 new cases in a single day. The record came with yet another warning. “We have never gotten out of the first wave,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci. “So I wish we would stop talking about waves and just look at the reality of where we are right now.” WSJ

United cuts 

United Airlines says it is exploring furloughing almost half its U.S. workforce, sending notice to 36,000 employees that their jobs are at risk. That comes a week after American Airlines said it has 20,000 more employees than it needs. The jobs are at risk despite billions of dollars in government aid for the global aviation sector, as air travel in the U.S., after a brief pickup, dropped again amid new lockdowns and quarantine rules. Fortune

The end of Brooks Brothers 

The iconic retailer since 1818 to the American business class—and U.S. presidents—has filed for bankruptcy, one of a wave of other classic brands struggling with the hit to both in-store shopping and customers' finances. In an era of remote work, the retailer has also had the additional struggle of adapting to the expansion of casual Friday to, well, everyday. New York Times

A quantum leap   

A Chinese information security firm soared 924% in its trading debut in Shanghai on Thursday to achieve the largest first-day leap in the history of China's stock markets. The company, QuantumCTek Co., makes quantum tech based information products. Fortune


U.K. stimulus plan 

In response to the economic ravages of the pandemic, Britain is launching another round of stimulus worth GBP 350 billion ($443 billion)—a sum that is expected to reach 18% of the country's national income, and push the deficit to levels nearly double those seen during the previous financial crisis. Part of that plan involves financial incentives to bring furloughed workers (there are currently about 9 million) back on the payroll. FT

Chief Medical Officer

Does your company need a chief medical officer? That's a question executives are increasingly facing, as the pandemic has forced them to make difficult decisions about the safety of their employees and customers, and to dive head first into major questions about public health—without much scientific training to rely on, writes Fortune's Erika Fry. Fortune

Mafia hospitals

Yesterday, the FT released an investigation into how funds from mafia front-companies in Italy's Calabria region were reaching the most respectable reaches of high finance. Now it looks at where those funds come from: increasingly, Calabria's public hospitals, where the ’Ndrangheta keeps a stranglehold over government contracts and health workers, while scions acquire MBAs and run networks that increasingly resemble multi-billion dollar corporations. FT

No screaming, please 

As Japan's theme parks allow riders back on their rollercoasters, commercials of quiet, stern, mask-wearing executives feature the message "please scream in your heart." The worry is that screaming will expel extra virus-loaded droplets. The challenge is obvious. “If a scream comes out, it comes out", said one visitor. WSJ

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by Katherine Dunn.