Health News

Moderna to cut UK, Canada coronavirus vaccine supplies, citing shortfall


U.S.-based drugmaker Moderna Inc. said on April 16 that it will deliver fewer coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines than planned to countries outside the U.S., citing issues with its European supply chain.

The pharmaceutical and biotechnology company said the shortfall in doses affects expected deliveries for the second quarter in a number of countries but didn’t specify others beyond Canada and the U.K. The manufacturing problems won’t affect U.S. supplies.

In addition to the U.S., U.K. and Canada, Moderna has signed supply contracts with the European Union (EU), Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Switzerland, Colombia, Israel, Taiwan, Qatar and Singapore. A Moderna spokeswoman in Europe said EU and Swiss deliveries in the second quarter “are still expected to come in within expected ranges.”

Moderna attributed the reduction in deliveries to a slower-than-expected ramp-up of production capacity. The company is working with Swiss partner Lonza Group AG to make the shots in Europe. Lonza is under pressure to begin operations at three new facilities where it makes active ingredients for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Moderna’s reduced deliveries will further limit global vaccine supply

The reduced deliveries to other countries will further limit global vaccine supplies, with COVID-19 shots from Johnson & Johnson on hold across much of the world due to concerns about a link to rare but dangerous blood clots – an issue that has also prompted restrictions on the use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine in Europe. (Related: More people develop blood clots after receiving the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine.)

“The trajectory of vaccine manufacturing ramp-up is not linear, and despite best efforts, there is a shortfall in previously estimated doses,” Moderna said in a statement. “Vaccine manufacturing is a highly complex process and a number of elements, including human and material resources, have factored into this volatility.”

U.K. shipments of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine will be reduced starting this month, just days after it was rolled out in Britain. The U.K. has purchased 17 million doses of the Moderna shot, the smallest contract in its vaccine portfolio.

Almost half of the U.K.’s population is now vaccinated with at least one dose, but the pace is expected to slow down over the coming weeks due to the delays in shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine from India and the reduced deliveries from Moderna.

The U.K. government said its vaccination campaign is on track to meet the target of offering a jab to all adults by the end of July. “Our vaccination program continues to make phenomenal progress – with over 41 million vaccines administered so far,” a government health spokeswoman said.

Canada concerned about the “delays and production challenges around Moderna”

Canada, which has witnessed a sharp rise in COVID-19 infections in the past week, is expected to feel the effects of the cutbacks in Moderna’s vaccine supply.

“We are concerned about the delays and production challenges around Moderna,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Friday at a press conference.

The timing of the Moderna cutback couldn’t be worse for Canada. The country’s seven-day average of new confirmed COVID-19 cases per million has exceeded the U.S. level for six days in a row. Regional authorities across Canada have also canceled vaccination appointments, citing a lack of supply.

According to Canada’s Procurement Minister Anita Anand, Moderna has told the Canadian government that it will cut its expected deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines this month.

Canada will now receive 650,000 doses by the end of April, instead of the originally planned 1.2 million. Moreover, as many as 2 million of the 12.3 million doses scheduled to arrive by the end of June will instead arrive by the end of September.

“We are disappointed,” Anand said. “Our government will continue to press Moderna to fulfill its commitments.”

Canada has distributed 2.82 million doses of the Moderna vaccine as of April 14 and 12.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in total. Pfizer, in partnership with BioNTech, is Canada’s largest COVID-19 vaccine supplier, accounting for roughly 60 percent of doses distributed.

To offset the cutbacks from Moderna, Canada struck another deal with Pfizer to acquire an additional 8 million doses. Moderna’s and Pfizer’s vaccines are given in two doses, three or four weeks apart.

Moderna ramps up COVID-19 vaccine production for the U.S.

Moderna is having no trouble in manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines for the U.S. at its plant outside Boston. The company’s contract manufacturing partner Lonza also makes ingredients of the vaccine at a plant in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Other partners handle vial-filling and packaging at U.S. sites. (Related: New docs: NIH owns half of Moderna vaccine.)

The company has been ramping up its COVID-19 vaccine production for the U.S. and expects to deliver a total of 300 million doses by the end of July. So far, it has delivered more than 117 million doses.

Outside the U.S., Moderna has delivered about 15 million doses from a separate supply chain, which includes production at Lonza’s plant in Switzerland. Partner facilities elsewhere handle vial-filling and packaging.

Moderna said Friday that in response to high global demand, the company and its manufacturing partner Lonza are trying to deliver a sustained supply in the shortest time frame possible.

The company said it is making investments and exploring other potential collaboration opportunities to support increase in production globally. It recently enlisted Spanish pharmaceutical firm Rovi to build new ingredient production facilities in Granada, Spain in a bid to lift European output.

Moderna is expecting to make 700 million to 1 billion doses globally this year and more than 2 billion doses next year.

Follow Immunization.news for more news and information related to coronavirus vaccines.

Sources include:

Bloomberg.com

WSJ.com

Reuters.com

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