Pfizer expects to nearly cut in half the amount of time it takes to produce a batch of COVID-19 vaccine from 110 days to an average of 60 as it makes the process more efficient and productive is built out, the company told USA TODAY. As the nation revs up its vaccination programs, the increase could help relieve bottlenecks caused by vaccine shortages.
“We call this ‘Project Light Speed,’ and it’s called that for a reason,” said Chaz Calitri, Pfizer’s vice president for operations for sterile injectables, who runs the company’s plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “Just in the last month, we’ve doubled output.”The increased speed and capacity is not unexpected, said Robert Van Exan, president of Immunization Policy and Knowledge Translation, a vaccine production consulting firm. “Nobody’s ever produced mRNA vaccines at this scale, so you can bet your bottom dollar the manufacturers are learning as they go. I bet you every day they run into some vaccine challenge and every day they solve it, and that goes into their playbook,” he said.
AstraZeneca, Oxford Race to Update COVID-19 Vaccine as Study Flags Weak Action Against Variant
It didn’t take long before a morale boost for AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine was overshadowed by disappointment over its waned protection against a newly emerged coronavirus variant. A new study has found AZ’s COVID-19 shot offered “minimal protection” against mild to moderate disease caused by the B.1.351 variant, which was first identified in South Africa, the University of Oxford, the original developer of the vaccine, said Sunday.
The finding has prompted the pair to update their vaccine, dubbed AZD1222, to target variants of the coronavirus with mutations similar to B.1.351. In the meantime, South African authorities have halted rollout of the vaccine as they try to figure out the best way forward. “Efforts are underway to develop a new generation of vaccines that will allow protection to be redirected to emerging variants as booster jabs, if it turns out that it is necessary to do so,” Sarah Gilbert, Ph.D., of the University of Oxford said in a statement. A modified version could be ready by fall, she said, according to the BBC.