AstraZeneca is in talks with the U.S. government to move production of its COVID-19 vaccine from a troubled Baltimore facility to a new one in New Jersey.
The pharmaceutical company has been looking for a new location since Emergent BioSolutions employees ruined millions of doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine containing an ingredient for the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The facility was forced by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to halt production of all vaccines after the failure.
The new facility, also in Maryland, is operated by Catalent – a New Jersey-based company – and already makes AstraZeneca vaccines for other countries, the New York Times first reported.
Since the AstraZeneca vaccine is not approved in the US, the doses made at this facility will likely be shipped overseas to aid international vaccination efforts.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced a shipment of 25 million cans worldwide, but not including AstraZeneca cans.
The federal government is in talks with AstraZeneca to move its production out of a facility that ruined millions of vaccine doses earlier this spring
In April, the FDA ordered Emergent’s Baltimore facility to cease production – and vaccine manufacturers are still grappling with the consequences.
The Baltimore facility, operated by Emergent BioSolutions, had both J&J and AstraZeneca recordings.
A failure in the facility resulted in AstraZeneca ingredients contaminating J&J cans and ruining 15 million cans.
At the time, J&J pointed out that it had defaulted on its obligations to provide vaccines to the United States. But the mix-up and the subsequent shutdown also affected AstraZeneca.
According to The Times, AstraZeneca was “temporarily unable to manufacture its vaccine for the government”.
To improve AstraZeneca’s production, the US government is now renegotiating the manufacturing contract.
The contract move will likely move manufacturing from Emergent to Catalent, a New Jersey-based pharmaceutical company.
Catalent is already doing some AstraZeneca recordings at a Maryland factory – although those recordings are being sent to international destinations.
The company is in talks to retrofit a production line to also manufacture vaccines for the United States, The Times reported.
The potential timing for this transition is not yet known, but federal officials estimate that Catalent could manufacture 25 to 35 million AstraZeneca doses per month for the U.S. – effectively replacing Emergent in its vaccine delivery commitment.
Emergent BioSolutions will produce fewer AstraZeneca vaccines when production moves
The AstraZeneca vaccine is one of the most widely used vaccines in the world, with millions of doses to deliver to the European Union, India, COVAX and others.
This vaccine is considered particularly important to COVAX – the global effort to vaccinate low-income countries – because it is easier to store and distribute than Pfizer and Moderna vaccines.
In the US, however, AstraZeneca has not even filed for emergency approval with the FDA.
The vaccine can be seen as unnecessary in the US vaccination effort as the country has many shipments from Pfizer, Moderna and J&J to meet national vaccination goals.
Additionally, some Americans may be reluctant to use AstraZeneca.
The vaccine has been shown to cause blood clots on very rare occasions – similar to the side effect that resulted in Johnson & Johnson being stopped using it last month.
As a result, AstraZeneca cans made for the U.S. government are likely to continue to be shipped overseas.
The US vaccinates over a million people every day – and they likely won’t need AstraZeneca vaccinations
More than half of the population has received at least one dose of vaccine
The Biden government has pledged over the past few weeks to support global vaccination efforts with a promise to send additional doses to COVAX and other countries.
On Thursday, Biden announced targets for the first 25 million cans to be shipped overseas.
Of these 25 million, 19 million cans go to COVAX. In June the government promised to send a total of 80 million cans.
Those starting dose batches will be Pfizer, Moderna, or J&J as the FDA is still reviewing the AstraZeneca cans made at the Emergent facility.
Future international shipments will likely be AstraZeneca-heavy, however, as the US is unlikely to need these vaccines.
Still, some federal officials say the AstraZeneca cans in the US could come in handy if the company applies for approval. Recent studies have shown that AstraZeneca’s vaccine can be effective when used with Pfizer in a mix-and-match regime – it can be used for booster syringes later in the US when it is launched.
Half of the US population had received at least one dose of vaccine by June 2. This includes more than 60 percent of adults and 86 percent of seniors who received at least one dose.