End of AstraZeneca vaccine production in Baltimore won’t affect US dose: White House

By Carl O’Donnell

Apr 5 (Reuters) – The US government’s decision to end production of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine at an Emergent BioSolutions facility in Baltimore is not a sign of drug safety concerns. And it won’t affect dosage making, a White House official said Monday.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services ordered the pharmaceutical company Johnson & Johnson to take over production at the plant that was being used to make both vaccines.

Emergent was ordered to halt manufacturing of the AstraZeneca drug after the production processor made a mistake that ruined 15 million doses of J&J vaccines.

“This is not a decision that in any way has anything to do with the AstraZeneca vaccine concerns,” White House COVID-19 adviser Andy Slavitt told reporters during a virtual press conference.

The AstraZeneca injection, which is used in dozens of countries, has come under significant scrutiny for reports of extremely rare – but serious – blood clots in some people who received the vaccine.

The US manufacturing error occurred several weeks ago, when a batch of J&J vaccine was discovered to have been contaminated with ingredients from the AstraZeneca drug, the New York Times reported last week.

J&J reiterated Saturday that it will deliver 100 million doses to the government by the end of May. Emergent said Sunday that it would reduce production of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine at the Baltimore plant.

AstraZeneca, whose COVID-19 vaccine has not yet been licensed for use in the United States, said it will work with the administration of President Joe Biden to find an alternative production site, which was confirmed by the White House.

“This is a decision made by the Department of Health and Human Services with the full collaboration of Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca,” said Slavitt.

The White House said the US government was still in a position to have enough doses to vaccinate its entire adult population by the end of May.

(Reporting by Carl O’Donnell. Edited in Spanish by Marion Giraldo)