NEW BRUNSWICK — Johnson & Johnson will enroll up to 60,000 healthy people for the largest late-stage trial test of a potential coronavirus vaccine starting in September.

The New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant is one of five companies working on vaccines for COVID-19. The others are AstraZeneca, Moderna, Novavax and Pfizer.

Participants who are given either a vaccine or a placebo in the phase 3 trials will be tracked by researchers for more than two years to determine if it is safe and effective.

Johnson & Johnson spokesman Jake Sargent told New Jersey 101.5 that, pending discussions with regulators, the vaccine could be available for potential emergency use in early 2021.

"Our intent is to enroll a robust number of participants who are representative of those populations affected by COVID-19. We are using epidemiology and modeling data to predict and plan where our studies should take place and expect that to be finalized soon," Sargent said, adding that the participants would come from various countries.

Moderna and Pfizer told CNBC that they have also entered late-phase testing, each with 30,000 participants.

If J&J's testing goes well, the company has said it could make between 600 million and 900 million doses by April.

It could be a challenge distributing a vaccine once it's available. During the 2009 swine flu pandemic, families waited in long lines in parking lots and at health departments when their turn came up, crowding that authorities know they must avoid this time around.

Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s effort to speed vaccine manufacturing and distribution, is working out how to rapidly transport the right number of doses. Drive-through vaccination centers, pop-up clinics and other innovative ideas are all on the table, said the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier.

(Includes material copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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