Covid-19 manufacturing roundup: Production ramp-ups approved by EU; mRNA boom spurs Lonza's Chinese expansion
The European Union’s human medicines committee approved a ramp-up in manufacturing capacity for Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech’s mRNA vaccines Tuesday.
A site in Saint-Rémy-sur-Avre, France, will provide fill-finish services for the vaccine Comirnaty after it was approved by the FDA on Monday.
Moderna’s vaccine will get a fill-finish boost at Catalent’s Bloomington, IN site. That’s in addition to the scale-up approved at Moderna’s Norwood, MA site, in addition to Lonza’s Portsmouth, NH facility. The sites are set to provide 40 million more doses to the EU in Q3 of this year.
More than 1.6M vaccines withdrawn from Japan
After receiving complaints of particulate matter in some vials of Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, 1.6 million doses of the jab have been pulled from use in Japan, Nikkei Asia reported.
The substance was reported from several different vaccination centers, though that didn’t lead to any safety or efficacy issues, the outlet reported. Three lots in total have been placed on hold out of “an abundance of caution,” and a spokesperson said that a manufacturing issue in Spain is believed at blame.
No other lots of Moderna’s vaccine have been held. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told reporters the hold wouldn’t have a significant impact on the vaccination campaign.
mRNA boom spurs Lonza’s Chinese expansion
Swiss drugmaker Lonza will up its manufacturing capacity in China, as it continues to make drug substance for Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, Reuters reported.
The new fill-finish line in Guangzhou will be completed in 2022 and add another 150 jobs to the site. Financial terms weren’t disclosed.
Lonza has doubled the mRNA drug substance production at its Swiss location in Visp and increased US productivity by 50% in Portsmouth, NH. It also added a new line in Galeen, Netherlands to produce 300 million doses per year.
Thailand university’s robotic arm maximizes vaccine vials
In hopes of batting down its worse Covid-19 outbreak yet, Thailand will introduce a robotic arm called the “AutoVacc” to help draw more efficient doses of vaccines and maximize the country’s low supply.
The arm comes from Chulalongkorn University, and scientists say that it can draw 12 doses of the vaccine in four minutes from a vial, an improvement from the 10 doses drawn manually. It’s been used at the university’s vaccination center since Monday, and solely deals with AstraZeneca vials, according to Reuters, which says on the label that it contains between 10 and 11 doses. The prototype cost $76,243, and the team plans to make similar machines to use with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines as well.
Previously, health workers used a certain type of syringe called a low dead space syringe to reduce the waste, but those require skilled manpower, something that lead researcher Juthamas Ratanavaraporn says could drain energy, as they’d be at it for months.
Just about 9% of the Thailand population has been fully vaccinated, while 28% has received at least one dose.