Apr 4, 2021 - Health

Johnson & Johnson takes control of COVID vaccine output in Baltimore

8 Employees work in a lab at Emergent Biosolutions, which is manufacturing vaccines for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson on February 8, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Employees in Februar work in a lab at Emergent Biosolutions, which has been manufacturing COVID-19 vaccines for AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo: Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson announced late Saturday that it's "assuming full responsibility" for manufacturing its COVID-19 vaccine at a Baltimore plant where 15 million doses were ruined last week.

Of note: AstraZeneca said Saturday night it is in "full cooperation with the U.S. government" moving production from the facility, run by Emergent BioSolutions, which been producing both vaccines.

Why it matters: The Biden administration took the "extraordinary" step of intervening as officials were "worried" the error would "erode public confidence in the vaccines," notes the New York Times, which first reported the news Saturday.

Driving the news: Both Bloomberg and Reuters report that the Department of Health and Human Services "facilitated" the move.

  • J&J said in a statement that it's "adding dedicated leaders for operations and quality, and significantly increasing the number of manufacturing, quality and technical operations personnel to work with the company specialists already at Emergent."
  • AstraZeneca, which has yet to receive FDA approval, said in a statement Saturday night it "will work with the U.S. Government to identify an alternative location."

For the record: The plant has yet to receive authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for either vaccine and the error is unlikely to impact the U.S. government's acceleration of the vaccine rollout.

  • President Biden is stepping up plans to enable every American adult to have access to a dose by May, but the mix-up underscores how manufacturing issues "could complicate the rollout," per Bloomberg.

What to watch: J&J said in its statement it "expects to deliver nearly 100 million single-shot doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to the U.S. Government by the end of May."

What they're saying: Emergent spokesperson Nina DeLorenzo told the Washington Post Saturday that the company had been told of AstraZeneca's relocation plans and would stop manufacturing the vaccine in "the next few days."

  • "We are welcoming additional Johnson & Johnson personnel on-site at Bayview for their technical expertise and support," DeLorenzo added.
  • Representatives for Emergent and the Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.
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