Pfizer, Moderna say they’re ramping up COVID-19 vaccine production

Steve Frigo, head of Pharmacy Services for Mercy Hospital in Creve Coeur, Mo., displays a vial of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine on December 14, 2020. File Photo by Bill Greenblatt/UPI

Feb. 23 (UPI) — Drug makers told Congress Tuesday that supplies of COVID-19 vaccines will grow dramatically over the next month as they prepare to double the pace of production.

Executives from Pfizer and Moderna, the only companies so far with vaccines approved for use in the United States, told lawmakers of the increase during a hearing before the House energy and commerce committee.

Pfizer Chief Business Officer John Young said in prepared testimony that his company has made logistical improvements and plans to go from producing 5 million doses per week at the start of February to more than 13 million weekly doses by mid-March.

“We are on track to make 120 million doses available for shipment by the end of March and an additional 80 million doses by the end of May,” Young said. “We anticipate all 300 million contracted doses will be made available for shipment by the end of July, enabling the vaccination of up to 150 million Americans.”

Varying factors have slowed vaccine distribution in the United States, such as the severe winter storm that hit a number of states last week.

Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge added that his company has delivered 45 million doses so far and plans another 100 million by the end of March.

“We have doubled our monthly deliveries since late 2020, and we are aiming to double them again by April to more than 40 million doses per month,” Hoge said. “Based on this progress scaling up manufacturing, we recently agreed to move up our delivery timeline. We now are aiming to deliver a second hundred million doses by the end of May and a third hundred million doses by the end of July.”

Dr. Richard Nettles, vice president of medical affairs for Johnson & Johnson, which is hoping for U.S. regulatory approval soon, said his company is preparing to enter the coronavirus vaccine field next month and will be able to produce 20 million doses by the end of next month.

“We are working around the clock to develop and broadly scale our manufacturing capabilities to supply the United States,” he said. “And we are appreciative of the ongoing and extensive collaboration and partnership with the U.S. government.”

Other vaccines in development at AstraZeneca, Novavax and GSK-Sanofi are planning for eventual approval in the United States.

The vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna use messenger RNA, whereas those from Novavax and GSK-Sanofi use protein-based adjuvanted formulations. Johnson & Johnson’s is an adenovirus vector vaccine.

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