UPDATE 2-J&J CEO says people may need annual COVID-19 vaccine shots for next several years -CNBC

(Adds details of South Africa application for EUA)

Feb 9 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky told CNBC on Tuesday that people may need to get vaccinated against COVID-19 annually over the next several years, like seasonal flu shots.

“Unfortunately, as (the virus) spreads it can also mutate,” he said in an interview.

“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,” he added.

Last week, Johnson & Johnson said it asked U.S. health regulators to authorize its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, and added it will apply to European authorities in the coming weeks.

The drugmaker’s application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) followed its Jan. 29 report in which it said the vaccine had a 66% overall efficacy at preventing moderate-to-severe disease.

Earlier on Tuesday, South Africa’s joint lead investigator for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial said that a government regulator was processing an application for the vaccine to be granted emergency use authorisation.

Unlike the COVID-19 vaccines of Pfizer Inc and Moderna Inc, which require two doses, J&J’s vaccine requires only one dose and hence eases logistics for health-care providers.

Gorsky told CNBC the company was “extremely confident” that it will meet its target to deliver 100 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine to the United States by the end of June.

J&J is continuing work on a two-dose coronavirus vaccine, Gorsky said. It expects two-shot vaccine data from clinical trials in the second half of the year, he added. (Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)