Moderna has the capacity but cannot guarantee the supply of COVID-19 vaccine

Moderna says it has the capacity to deliver one billion doses of COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273 but is concerned with raw material supply.

Moderna has an approved vaccine for COVID-19 in the US, Europe and UK. Speaking at the 39th Annual JP Morgan virtual Healthcare Conference, CEO Stéphane Bancel highlighted how potential shortages of material could delay manufacture despite Moderna “structuring the company to deliver a billion doses” in a year.

“I think sometimes people confuse capacity and supply” said Bancel, adding “we have a capacity to deliver a billion doses in fiscal year 21” but “the supply for material is tight, just because nobody was expecting this pandemic. So since last February, we have worked closely with our key suppliers so that they could start investing last year to get up to capacity.”

Image: iStock/Kunal Mahto

A 24/7 production schedule began in 2020. However, Bancel said despite this they cannot guarantee they will have all materials in place.

“The piece I cannot predict,” he told investors, “is on May 12, on July 26, are we going to have all the raw material that day to make the product? We are trying to be in safety stock, but we’re not at the level of safety stock yet that we would like to see.”

Bancel adds the reason why he “picked in a random date this year” is because if “there is one material missing, we cannot start making products and that capacity will be lost forever because we cannot make it up. We are running flat out 24/7.”

The industry has been wary of raw material shortages as companies ramp up their COVID-19 efforts. For example, the increased demand for single-use systems has led to concerns about supply shortages and vendors have been investing heavily to expand their own product capacity – the latest being Pall which announced an $114 million investment on the back of COVID-19 single-use demand.

Moderna has not disclosed their manufacturing process in detail. However, CMO Tal Zaks has previously praised the vaccine for its cell-free and enzymatic nature meaning that “the scale of production is quite small.”

However, without guaranteed supply to raw materials, Bancel said it is very difficult to “predict precisely” what this year is going to look like, adding that they want to be “conservative and cautious” in their approach.

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