With millions of COVID-19 doses on hand and reports that J&J has halted production, we ask whether it has changed its vaccine manufacturing strategy.
This week the New York Times reported that Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has temporarily halted production of its COVID-19 vaccine from its Leiden, The Netherlands site claiming that it is producing an experimental â€śbut potentially more profitable vaccine to protect against an unrelated virus,â€ť instead.
A spokesperson for J&J told BioProcess Insider its Leiden site â€śContinues to play a role in our vaccine manufacturing in 2022 [â€¦] [and we] continue to provide all our fill and finish sites, including Aspen, with drug substance to produce our COVID-19 vaccine.â€ť
However, when pushed, the firm did not divulge whether this means Leiden is producing COVID-19 vaccine drug substance or not.
J&Jâ€™s Leiden site is equipped with single-use bioreactors to a scale of 1,000 L and was built in response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. It was initially used to manufacture the firmâ€™s investigational mosaic HIV-1 preventive vaccine when it opened its doors in 2018.
Though its response maintains the firm is dedicated to fulfilling all its contractual obligations in relation to the COVAX Facility and the African Union, there could be a possibility that J&J is no longer manufacturing drug substance for its COVID-19 vaccine from Leiden but is still producing the drug product across its network. Again, J&J did not address this question directly.
â€śOur manufacturing sites produce multiple products as we have an obligation to supply life changing medicines to patients around the world and bring forward our innovative pipeline of new medicines and vaccines,â€ť the spokesperson said.
â€śWe manage our production planning accordingly and are currently supplying from our extensive global network based on the demand for our vaccine and the needs of our patients and customers.â€ť
One billion doses
The firm had prior plans to produce one billion doses of the single-shot jab. In its Q1 2020 financial callÂ chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels said the Leiden facility could produce as many as 300 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine at that time and by expanding global manufacturing capacity in parallel, as well as working with partners to extend manufacturing capacity the firm hopes to be able to supply one billion doses of the vaccine worldwide.
The firm has inked numerous partnerships over the past two years for both drug substance and fill & finish capacity to support the vaccine. Examples include contracts with Big Pharma rivalsÂ Merck & Co., andÂ Sanofi, and CDMOsÂ Vibalogics,Â Emergent, Catalent, Â IDT Biologika, andÂ Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing (GRAM).
J&J told us it has â€śMillions of doses of our COVID-19 vaccine in inventory [and] in 2021, approximately 70% of our global vaccine supply was made available to low- and middle-income countries through our advance purchase agreements and country donationsâ€ť