Healthcare/Biosafety

What Actually Happened at the Emergent BioSolutions Factory?

8 April, 2021

On April 5, mkurnali.ge, a medical news website, published an article titled “Johnson&Johnson Brings the Production of AstraZeneca to a Halt”. The article claims that Johnson & Johnson decided to stop the production of the AstraZeneca vaccine, as 15 million doses of the vaccine went bad due to a technical error at the factory. The source of the information is claimed to be the New York Times.

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The article by mkurnali.ge is misleading. The production of the AstraZeneca vaccine has not been stopped. The error that took place at a factory in Baltimore, only affected 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The affected vaccine doses have already been destroyed. Johnson & Johnson are independent companies and cannot stop each other’s production processes.

 

The article, cited by mkurnali.ge, actually describes a case that took place at Emergent BioSolutions factory. The said factory produces American Johnson & Johnson and British-Swedish AstraZeneca anti-coronavirus vaccines. However, this does not mean that Johnson & Johnson produces AstraZeneca vaccines and producing the AstraZeneca vaccines is not a “second production line” for Johnson & Johnson, as claimed in the article by mkurnali.ge. At the end of February, the factory workers made a mistake and mixed ingredients from the AstraZeneca vaccine in 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The error was found during a quality check, performed by Johnson & Johnson on these doses. After that, the 15 million doses of the vaccine have been destroyed.

The error caused damage to Johnson & Johnson to the extent that it delayed the distribution of the vaccine in various parts of the United States. An investigation revealed that none of the mistakenly produced vaccine doses left the factory and, therefore, not reached patients. It should also be emphasized that this error has not affected the production of the AstraZeneca vaccine. The latter vaccine has not yet been authorized for use by the Food and Drug Administrations of the United States (FDA), and its production has not been halted due to the incident.

Both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson use an identical technology in their anti-COVID vaccines —a vector, which is a safe version of the virus. A protein is created using the vector that stimulates the immune system to create antibodies. Although the technology is identical, the vectors used in these vaccines cannot be interchangeable. This was the reason the mistakenly produced Johnson & Johnson vaccines were destroyed.

 


By Mariam Dangadze


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