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Johnson & Johnson halts COVID-19 trial after participants get ill

Yahoo Finance’s Anjalee Khemlani joins The First Trade with Alexis Christoforous and Brian Sozzi to discuss the latest developments around the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine.

Video Transcript

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, of course, we are keeping an eye on Johnson & Johnson this morning. Earnings beat there, but the company announcing it's pausing its COVID-19 vaccine trial after an unexplained illness in a volunteer.

Our health care reporter Anjalee Khemlani is with us now. So Anjalee, start with this vaccine trial. I guess this is to be expected, right? There are going to be sort of starts and fits with this thing.

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: There are. And as I said before, we've been pretty lucky that there haven't been as many in some of the other groups. So let's lay this out. Johnson & Johnson working on a single-shot vaccine late stage trial and now having an unexplained illness in a participant. Not sure yet if that's based on a placebo or an actual vaccine recipient, and so they're still waiting to find out.

Now, as you recall, AstraZeneca was also another company that had to pause its trial based on an illness, and that was restarted in the UK. But that got to the level of a regulatory hold by the FDA, which still has not restarted. This is a little bit different because it's internally Johnson & Johnson saying something triggered a pause. They're looking at it. And we'll wait to find out whether or not it was, in fact, related to the vaccine.

If so, the regulatory bodies will have to take a step in. So right now we're waiting to hear more news on that. And you know, as we know, the other two leaders in the race, Moderna and Pfizer, different technology and have not seen anything like this. Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca both using similar technology, so it's kind of interesting just to see the difference between the two.

BRIAN SOZZI: Anjalee, how should investors think about this? Does this news mean that a potential vaccine, at least from J&J, is off the table for this year?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: No. We're-- already, J&J has been talking about next year to begin with, so I'd like to pause on that point. But then looking forward, we've heard from everyone across the board, vaccine experts included, that this is not irregular. It's just that it's under such a bright spotlight right now that any sort of hiccup is just being-- is noticed a lot more.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: And I guess lost in the sauce here is the fact that J&J came out with pretty good earnings and also raised their guidance, something a lot of companies are unable to do during this pandemic. What else can you tell us?

ANJALEE KHEMLANI: That's correct. And so Johnson & Johnson really saw a boost in both its consumer and pharma brands, but did see some decline still in the medical devices range. And that, of course, is a result of hospitals and health systems still not operating at full capacity when it comes to surgery and other-- wherever medical devices are needed.

Meanwhile, in the consumer brands, very interesting. while there are some brands like Listerine, and Pepcid AC, and other-- and Band-Aid as well that we kind of expected to see, one was Tylenol. And that, we know, is actually a result of COVID-19 is being used as part of treatment protocol, especially for patients with fever. So that has been one of their boosts from COVID since the beginning.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: All right, Anjalee Khemlani, thanks so much. And do stay tuned, because we're going to hear from Johnson & Johnson's CFO Joseph Wolk. That's coming up at 11:20 Eastern.