Johnson & Johnson has contracted with a Grand Rapids-based company as it seeks more manufacturing partnerships to increase the supply of its COVID-19 vaccine which was cleared by U.S. regulators on Saturday, the chief executive said Alex Gorsky.
J&J will deliver 3.9 million doses of its single-shot vaccine over the next two days, Gorsky said Monday in a telephone interview. The company wants to accelerate its schedule of delivering enough vaccine to immunize 20 million Americans by the end of the month and a total of 100 million by the end of June, he said.
âWe’re doing everything we can in partnership with the US government and other outside manufacturers to see what we can do to speed up and increase that number as well,â Gorsky said.
New Brunswick, New Jersey-based J&J’s manufacturing footprint for its COVID-19 vaccine spans the United States, Europe, Asia and Africa, and the company aims to have eight facilities operational by the middle of the year. Production, including quality testing and release, takes around three months, during which time the vaccine often crosses multiple borders for different stages.
Gorsky acknowledged that the company had encountered supply issues in its efforts to increase production in the United States.In its initial contract with the Trump administration, J&J agreed to supply 12 million doses by the end of February, including 2 million that it planned to deliver in January.
âIn my over 30 years in the industry, what I can tell you is that this kind of ramp-up is never – or rarely – what I would call a linear shot,â he said. Gorsky said. âThere will almost always be unforeseen challenges along the way. “
In the United States, J&J contracted with New Jersey-based Catalent Inc. and Grand Rapids-based Grand River Aseptic Manufacturing Inc. to fill its vials with the drug substance.
âOne of our facilities was literally a parking lot 12 months ago,â Gorsky said. “Today it is one of the most advanced biopharmaceutical vaccine manufacturing facilities in the world. We learn along the way.”
The company focuses on two parts of its production process for improvement. One is its ability to make a live cold virus called adenovirus, which is used in shooting to trigger an immune response that fights infection.
Gorksy also wants to increase the company’s filling and finishing facilities, a final step where the vaccine is placed in vials. The filling and finishing capacity is limited, he said, and therefore the company is looking to increase it in the future.
“We are leaving no stone unturned in terms of partnerships,” he said. “One of the most important lessons from the pandemic is the power of collaboration.”
J&J remains in active discussions with the U.S. government over exercising options for additional doses, Gorsky said. Globally, he also sees it playing an important role.
The company will offer the vaccine to a nonprofit in the midst of the pandemic, at a price that will not exceed $ 10 per dose. In comparison, the Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccine costs US $ 39 for the full two-shot regimen, while Moderna’s costs $ 33 for both doses. The price difference will be significant abroad, Gorsky said.