If you're concerned about the coronavirus that recently cropped up in China, and slightly more recently started cropping up in random places all throughout the globe, then you're part of a pretty big and pretty astute group of people concerned about their own health. Naturally, one of the first thoughts went to some kind of vaccine for this, since we have vaccines for just about everything as it is. Several companies jumped into the fray on that front, and recently, no less a healthcare powerhouse than Johnson & Johnson (NYSE: JNJ) announced that it was likely to have a vaccine ready, but not without some caveats.
Fighting The Newest Viral Threat
The word came from Johnson & Johnson's own Dr. Paul Stoffels, who serves as chief scientific officer with the company. Stoffels noted that the company currently has “dozens” of scientists hard at work on finding such a vaccine, and that made him confident the company would achieve the breakthrough result required.
In fact, work has not only been in play for the last two weeks, Stoffels noted, but it shouldn't take long to see some kind of results. Stoffels expects to have some kind of update within the next few weeks, a significant positive development for a virus that seems to be spreading quickly.
At last report, Chinese officials noted that there were over 2,800 confirmed cases, and had already locked down several cities. That wasn't enough to prevent a spread of the virus, however, as reports of confirmed coronavirus outbreak hit several cities worldwide, including one in Maricopa County in Arizona and several in California. Other reports came from Washington state and Chicago, Illinois. Over 80 people, so far, have died from it.
The virus seems limited so far to only those who have recently traveled from China, more specifically, the city of Wuhan.
...You Wanted It When?
However, there's a downside to Johnson & Johnson's reporting: even if a vaccine is found in short order, it will still take time to get it to market and make it available to those who no doubt would like a vaccine to protect them against such a virus. In fact, Stoffels projected that it could take as much as one year to get the vaccine out and in play.
Johnson & Johnson is said to be drawing on its experience during the Zika virus outbreak back in 2015, and when certain technological advances are thrown in—it's been about four years, after all—the company expects to be able to shave at least a couple months off the old record. The biggest problem here is that coronavirus is comparatively new in the field, so Johnson & Johnson—and anyone else looking—has to start pretty much from square one.
Getting By With a Little Help From Your Corporate Partners
Technological advantages will give Johnson & Johnson some help here, but an additional source of help comes from a set of outside partners, Stoffels noted. The company is poised to work with what he described as a range of partners worldwide to attempt to pin down a solutions.
Moreover, they're not the only ones working on this. Reports noted that Moderna (NASDAQ: MRNA) was also working on a solution, with help from health-related agencies in the US government.
Fear Makes a Comeback
It's been said that there are two key market drivers out there: “Fear” and “Greed.” While it's a safe bet just which of the duo has had the whip hand for the last several months, its cohort isn't being counted out too quickly. It's sufficiently bad that even Stoffels called the speed at which the virus was spreading “scary”, but is stopping well short of any kind of panic. The fear is pushing development of a vaccine, however, as the company has already been at work for weeks.
It's still far too early to have any kind of projection on the overall impact here. Some might say that there's going to be a distinct advantage here for online shopping—particularly for anything with a grocery element like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN)—and the recent resurgence in brick-and-mortar shopping may be dealt a bit of a blow. Gains may also be found in home suppliers like At Home (NYSE: HOME) or Home Depot (NYSE: HD), as customers seek to enhance their homes to make staying in more palatable.
It's going to be a point to watch over the next few weeks, that much is clear. With vaccine development on a tear and consumers already planning ahead, we could be in for some noteworthy times ahead.
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