J&J takes over US Covid vaccine factory after 15m doses are spoiled
A pharmaceutical plant that was producing ingredients for Covid-19 vaccines developed by both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson will exclusively supply the latter company after a mistake by workers there spoiled millions of doses.
US-based J&J said it was “assuming full responsibility” at the plant in Baltimore owned by Emergent BioSolutions. UK-based AstraZeneca said it would move Covid-19 vaccine production out of the facility to another location.
A reported 15m doses of J&J’s vaccine were reported to be ruined last week after workers in the Baltimore plant accidentally mixed ingredients for its jab and the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
The error was a setback to efforts to instil confidence in people wary of the new vaccines developed to combat a virus that has killed more than 550,000 people in the US.
J&J last week said it had identified a batch of drug substance that did not meet quality standards at the plant owned by Emergent, a New York-listed life sciences company.
In an update over the weekend, J&J said it was increasing the ranks of manufacturing, quality and technical operations personnel to work at the Baltimore plant as it took over responsibilities for its vaccine production there.
Yet J&J reiterated its intention to deliver almost 100m doses of its vaccine to the US government by the end of May. The US has fully vaccinated 61m people, of which 4m were J&J’s single-dose jab, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Emergent’s Baltimore plant has not yet secured emergency authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration to manufacture substances for the vaccine, and J&J said it would work towards that goal.
AstraZeneca said it was working with the federal government to carry out plans to produce its vaccine in the US. “As part of that effort, and in full co-operation with the US government, AstraZeneca will relocate production” of its vaccine drug substance from the Emergent facility, it said.
The moves came after the Biden administration put J&J in charge of the Baltimore plant and moved to stop it from making the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the New York Times reported, citing senior federal health officials.