The novel Coronavirus vaccine push is facing a maddening bottleneck: a shortage of glass vials to store vaccine injections.
According to the Wall Street Journal on June 16, pharmaceutical companies in various countries are pressing ahead with the trial and manufacture of novel Coronavirus vaccine, hoping that the vaccine will be safe enough to release billions of doses.
But industry officials say the obstacles to mass production are a shortage of glass vials and the special glass from which they are made.
Medical glass has been in short supply for months.
Now, major manufacturers such as Corning Inc. say pharmaceutical companies and governments are lining up to buy glass bottles to house the Novel Coronavirus vaccine.
Johnson & Johnson alone bought 250 million vials.
Short, one of the world’s biggest makers of medical glass, said it had received orders for 1bn vials, twice its capacity this year.
A global non-profit group is buying glass production lines to secure its own stocks of vaccines.
“Every company that’s going to be making vaccines wants to get their hands on this little glass vial,” says John Ciminski, chief executive of Contellent, a contract manufacturer that makes vaccines for Astrazeneca and other drug companies.
Where does all this glass come from?”
The supply challenge reflects the obstacles to immunization campaigns that the global healthcare industry has never faced, the report said.
Much of the public attention has focused on vaccine development.
Just as important and challenging, say industry officials, is the more basic but essential task of making sure there are enough corks, syringes and other packaging.
One of Merck’s vaccine candidates has to be stored in cryogen-cold storage, a challenge for countries that lack such equipment or suffer frequent blackouts.
A Merck spokesman said the company will first store candidate vaccines in extremely cold temperatures in its laboratories and then work on optimizing them so they can be stored in a normal refrigerator environment.
The shortage of vials is due to a limited stock of specialized materials used to make these small containers.
Medical glass is different from the ordinary grade glass used to make household utensils or cups.
The glass used to preserve medicines contains chemicals that resist extreme temperature changes and keep vaccines stable.
Making vials out of this special glass can take days or even weeks, and involves melting the ingredients, forming them into thin tubes, and then turning the tubes into vials.
The Oslo-based Innovation Alliance for Pandemic Preparedness is funding the vaccine effort.
“There is a global glass shortage,” said James Robinson, a consultant who helped the alliance.