In addition to the demand for COVID-19 shots outstripping supply, vaccine manufacturers are struggling to secure supplies of giant plastic bags used in bioreactors that mix pharmaceutical ingredients, thus creating a bottleneck, resulting in more delays of vaccine rollout, the Financial Times reports.
In an interview with CNN, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said that he expects most Americans to have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by mid-to-late May or early June, versus previous predictions of late March to early April.
COVID-19 shots developed by companies including BioNTech SE (NASDAQ: BNTX) /Pfizer Inc (NYSE: PFE), Moderna Inc (NASDAQ: MRNA), and Novavax Inc (NASDAQ: NVAX) are made in the bags that can hold up to 2,000 liters of material, which are used as sterile liners in the tanks where the vaccines are produced.
Stanley Erck, CEO of Novavax, called on companies not to hoard the bags, adding that it had been “really complicated” to work around the shortages. “We just had a minor breakthrough where we thought we were going to be out of bags in one particular facility. And we just got enough to get through February, March, and April,” he told the Financial Times. “Otherwise, the factory would have shut down.”
MilliporeSigma, a division of Germany’s Merck & Co., Inc (NYSE: MRK), said that it had been working on expanding facilities and added that it was also reliant on a web of smaller suppliers who were scaling-up at speed.
Thermo Fisher Scientific Inc. (NYSE: TMO), which also makes the single-use liners, said it had increased production capacity by 50% in 2020 with further expansion by another 50% this year.
The shortage of the bags follows other supply chain problems, such as obtaining enough lipid nanoparticles required to deliver genetic code into the body and securing the right kind of syringes to extract as many doses as possible from a vial.
Price Action: PFE is up 0.03% at $34.7, and BNTX is up 0.5% at $115, while MRNA is down 0.4% at $177.79 in premarket hours on the last check Wednesday. NVAX closed 9.3% lower at $262.7 on Tuesday.
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