Johnson & Johnson gears up for 60,000-person COVID-19 vaccine trial, the industry's biggest yet

Vaccines
As COVID-19 vaccines race ahead, J&J's enrollment plans are twice the size that rival vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer are planning for their own phase 3 tests. (Getty Images)

With several COVID-19 vaccines already in phase 3 trials and investigators aiming to enroll tens of thousands of participants, Johnson & Johnson is prepping the largest study yet. 

The drugmaker is planning to enroll a whopping 60,000 participants in a phase 3 trial set to begin next month, according to the government’s clinical trial database.

That’s twice the enrollment rival vaccine makers Moderna and Pfizer are planning for their own phase 3 tests. Pfizer has already enrolled more than 11,000 people, according to a Thursday update. And Moderna signed up 8,374 participants in the first three weeks of its own trial, CNN reported earlier this week. But officials were concerned about a dearth of minorities enrolled in the Moderna trial, CNN reports.

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RELATED: Johnson & Johnson to start human testing of COVID-19 vaccine next week 

Aside from those companies, AstraZeneca's vaccine is also in phase 3 testing in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa. The company has enrolled about 8,000 participants in the U.K. out of an expected 10,000, a spokesman told Politico on August 13. Investigators have vaccinated about 3,000 people in Brazil and 900 people in South Africa.

As for J&J, investigators plan to test the company’s vaccine, Ad26.COV2.S, against placebo to see whether the candidate can reduce moderate to severe COVID-19. J&J expects the study to start around September 5. 

These companies represent the COVID-19 frontrunners, but many other players are involved in the hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine, including Novavax and a partnership between Sanofi and GlaxoSmithKline. Novavax is prepping a 30,000-person phase 3 trial for this fall. 

RELATED: Busy AstraZeneca inks yet another big COVID-19 vaccine deal, this time with EU 

As the vaccines move forward, governments around the world have been negotiating supply deals to be ready if the candidates succeed. The U.S. has inked agreements for 800 million doses, and Europe is in advanced discussions with several companies after signing a pact for 400 million doses with AstraZeneca. 

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