Despite persistent need, J&J halts COVID-19 vaccine output

pharmafile | February 9, 2022 | News story | Research and Development  

Johnson & Johnson has temporarily suspended production at a key plant manufacturing the COVID-19 vaccine. The easily administered vaccine is the vaccine of choice for much of the developing world.

The vaccine does not require transportation at very cold temperatures, and was originally billed as a single-shot vaccine, making it a more feasible option for developing countries.

However, the US company shut down the only plant making usable batches of the vaccine, and has already fallen behind on its deliveries to poorer countries. The facility in the Dutch city of Leiden has instead been making an experimental but potentially more profitable vaccine to protect against an unrelated virus.

“This is not the time to be switching production lines of anything, when the lives of people across the developing world hang in the balance,” said Dr Ayoade Alakija, a co-head of the African Union’s vaccine delivery program.

The halt is however temporary, and the Leiden plant is expected to begin production of the J&J COVID-19 vaccine again after a break of a few months. Thanks to stockpiles, it is unclear whether this has had an impact on vaccine supplies yet.

The interruption has the potential to reduce the supply of J&J’s vaccine by a few hundred million doses. Other facilities have been hired to produce the vaccine. However, these are either not yet operational, or have not yet received regulatory approval to send their product to be bottled.

The company has said that it will continue to “fulfil our contractual obligations”. Jake Sargent, a spokesperson for J&J, said in an email that the company was “focused on ensuring our vaccine is available where people are in need”, and that its global production network “is working day and night” to help fight the pandemic.

Ana Ovey

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