Pfizer and BionTech Aim to Cut Vaccine Production Time

10.02.2021 - Pfizer and BioNTech are accelerating the time it takes to produce a Covid-19 vaccine batch and are aiming to almost cut it in half, Chaz Calitri, vice president of sterile injectables at Pfizer, said in an interview with the US newspaper USA Today.

Through the effort that the vaccine makers have dubbed Project Light Speed – not related to the US government’s accelerated vaccine delivery program Operation Warp Speed – Calitri said they believe turnaround time could shrink from 110 days currently to around 60 days on average. In the past month alone, the companies have doubled output, he added.

Normally, engineers would spend years improving efficiencies and cost-effectiveness, but as soon as vials of vaccine began coming off the production line, the Pfizer manager said engineers started analyzing how production could work faster and better and “just went right to commercial production."

As an example of  how the partners plan to speed up the process, Calitri pointed to DNA production, the first step in the manufacturing process, Making the DNA originally took 16 days, but the process will soon take just nine or 10 days, he suggested.

While BioNTech struggles to ramp up production, both at its main site in Mainz, Germany, its new plant in Marburg, Germany, and at cooperation partners, Calitri told USA Today that Pfizer is looking to add new production lines at all three of its US plants. Altogether, the manufacturing network spans six facilities in the US and Europe.

In reaction to a supply shortage across Europe, both France’s Sanofi and Switzerland’s Novartis have pledged to step in to support Pfizer and BioNTech with their own production facilities. Sanofi will leverage a plant at Frankfurt / Germany to produce 100 million doses from August 2021, and Novartis will pitch in with fill & finish work at its facility in Stein, Switzerland, starting in the 2021 second quarter.

The Bloomberg news network meanwhile has estimated that, at current vaccination rates, it could take the world more than seven years to return to pre-pandemic life. However, it said, that as more people get vaccinated the picture could improve. Bloomberg claims to have built the biggest database of Covid-19 shots given around the world, with more than 119 million doses administered worldwide.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist