Production of the COVID-19 vaccine is improving, leaders tell Congress

COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are hampered by delays and supply constraints in early production, resulting in lower-than-expected doses to the U.S. public.

While the two bottlenecks and supply gaps addressed two authorized vaccines, other companies, although using more traditional manufacturing platforms, still face some problems during the boom. This is largely because the equipment and supplies needed for a single vaccination are the same for everyone.

Therefore, early production has been delayed by global restrictions on certain materials and supplies. In addition, companies had to balance production with capital investments before they knew if vaccinations were effective.

For messenger RNA vaccines such as Modena (MRNA) and Pfizer (PFE) / BioNTech (BNTX) vaccines, the lipid nanoparticles required to facilitate vaccine formulation were nowhere widely used and mass production capacity did not exist. This is one of the items Pfizer has been able to bring in-house and John Pfizer, CEO of Business, says he is working on the expansion.

“We have made significant investments in the U.S. supply chain,” he said Tuesday, noting that some of the work had begun before the vaccine was licensed for emergency use in December.

Young was among a handful of company executives who testified before a U.S. House subcommittee. The 3-hour hearing covered a number of issues, but vaccine production – and the role of the federal government in creating and disseminating it – was a key topic. Officials from Moderna, Pfizer, AstraZeneca (AZN), Johnson and Johnson (JNJ) and Novavax (NVAX) were all present.

Hospitals are overwhelmed in Georgia. (Graphic: David Foster / Yahoo Finance)

“Incredibly complex”

Representative Paul Tonko (20th District D-NY) noted that “vaccine production is incredibly complex. It can be bottlenecks up and down, from raw materials to stocks, storage and distribution, even if enough highly trained people work in the lock. step coordination. “

Other lawmakers noted that a significant investment of taxpayers ’dollars in the development of vaccines and, in some cases, to help with the necessary materials, such as vials and syringes, has achieved the performance of a licensed vaccine in less than a year. In addition, the Protection Act (DPA) applied by both Trump and the Biden government has helped companies prioritize the supplies they need.

Just as Pfizer had to figure out how to expand new technology, Moderna, which was a significantly smaller company at the start of the pandemic, had to find partners for that.

Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna, said the company, in partnership with one of the world’s largest vaccine manufacturers, Lonza, has helped spread the once-small biotechnology quickly. Among the highly trained staff at Moderna and externally among the partners learning the new platform in real time, the company has been able to announce a significant increase in performance.

“Once they learned about this process, they got better and better at it,” Hoge said.

Dr. Craig Spencer, director of global health for emergency medicine at the New York-Presbyterian / Columbia University Medical Center at Yahoo Finance on Tuesday, said the existing capacity for mRNA cannot be relied upon.

“A year ago, none of these vaccines existed. These mRNA vaccines were not manufactured in any location that was close to the size they are currently in,” he said.

Dose monitoring

Johnson and Johnson prescribed 12 million doses in their contract with the United States by the end of February, but that seems unlikely as the independent advisory committee tasked with recommending emergency use authorization to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will only meet on Friday.

J&J Richard Nettles, U.S. vice president of medical affairs at Janssen Infectious Diseases and Vaccines, said the company is well on track to deliver 4 million doses as soon as the EUA is released and plans to deliver 20 million doses by the end of March. The treaty with the United States amounts to 100 million servings by June.

Meanwhile, Pfizer and Moderna have recently announced significant production increases, occasionally doubling existing volumes. In addition, they both asked the FDA for additional doses in the vials – Pfizer by putting an existing extra dose in the vials and Moderna by requesting up to five additional doses – to increase the number of doses delivered at one time.

The other two companies, AstraZeneca and Novavax, are still participating in Phase 3 trials in the United States, even if their vaccines are marketed in other countries. They both expect an EUA in the spring.

The next epidemic

Representative Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ District 1) asked leaders what the U.S. government could do to better work together to prevent a recurrence of the deadly epidemic.

Most advertised subsidies to companies and the DPA, while others emphasized the role of the government.

Pfizer Young noted that “timely interaction” with regulators should be a lesson that can be widely applied across the pharmaceutical industry. In addition, investing in virus surveillance and genomic screening would benefit the U.S. public health system.

According to modern Hoge, scientific investment has contributed to the success of the company.

In particular, the work done by the National Institutes of Health and agencies within it to identify the spike protein in the virus as a target for vaccinations, so each manufacturer has developed a successful vaccine formula, he said.

White House officials have previously said the data protection agreement is already being used to increase domestic production capacity, with announcements expected in the near future to ensure that shortages of supply and raw materials will never again be an obstacle.

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