Producing enough COVID-19 vaccine to end the pandemic is being described as the biggest medical manufacturing feat in history, as reported in Yahoo!Finance. "Never in history has so much vaccine been developed at the same time - so that capacity doesn't exist," said Paul Stoffels, Johnson & Johnson's chief scientific officer, who sees filling capacity as the main limiting factor.
The news source said many developers, including Moderna, are experimenting with new ways to mitigate the extreme cold storage demands of their vaccines, which at present need to be kept at -80 degrees Celsius, or -112 Fahrenheit. SiO2 Materials Science is ramping up capacity of plastic vials with a glass lining, which are more stable at ultra-low temperatures.
"You can bring us down to -196 Celsius, which none of the vaccines need," chief business officer Lawrence Ganti said, adding "you can throw it against the wall and it doesn't break." The company expects to boost production from the current 5 million to 10 million vials a year, to 120 million within 3.5 months, he said.
Companies developing mRNA vaccines, including Moderna and Translate Bio, which is partnering with Sanofi, are working to make candidates stable at higher temperatures. Colleen Hussey, a Moderna spokeswoman, said "we are getting more confident that we could run our supply chain at -20 Celsius, which is an easier storage condition than deep freezing."
Meanwhile, travel restrictions are posing more prosaic problems. Johnson & Johnson, for example, which plans to start clinical trials this summer, has struggled to send its vaccine experts to oversee the launch of production sites because they are subject to quarantine periods. "It is absolutely a factor," said Stoffels. "If you have to send your people to the middle of India to get to filling capacity, that's not easy at the moment."
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