What happened

Shares of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ -0.69%) are up 6.4% at 1:50 p.m. EDT after the healthcare conglomerate said it's made considerable progress developing a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Earlier this month Johnson & Johnson's chief scientific officer, Dr. Paul Stoffels, said the company had a goal of starting a clinical trial in November, but Johnson & Johnson now thinks it can be in the clinic by September at the latest.

Gloved hands giving an injection into a patient's shoulder

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

"What would usually take five to seven years, we expect to be able to accomplish in five to seven months," Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, said in an interview on NBC News' Today Show.

Johnson & Johnson is ramping up production of the vaccine before the healthcare company even knows whether the vaccine works with a goal of having "several hundred million doses available by the middle of next year" according to Gorsky. Longer term, Gorsky thinks Johnson & Johnson can have a billion doses available by the end of 2021.

The vaccine is being co-funded by the U.S government's Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). Johnson & Johnson and BARDA have committed more than $1 billion of investment into research, development, and clinical testing of the vaccine.

Now what

Johnson & Johnson plans to make the vaccine available for emergency use -- presumably for people at high risk of exposure like healthcare workers -- in early 2021. It won't make a profit on the emergency use vaccinations, but should benefit once the vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.