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COVID-19 vaccine supply chains: LBC’s Tom Swarbrick interviews EPR’s Victoria Rees

Junior Editor of European Pharmaceutical Review, Victoria Rees, speaks with LBC’s Tom Swarbrick about the glass vials needed to contain the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

On 5 January 2021, LBC Radio’s Tom Swarbrick spoke with me to discover more about COVID-19 vaccine supply chains in the UK. Concerning the Wockhardt fill-finish facility in Wrexham, North Wales, I confirmed that there is currently only a single production line dedicated to packaging AZD1222, the Oxford-AstraZeneca inoculation, meaning that the vaccine will be manufactured elsewhere but then packaged into glass vials and sealed at this facility. I explained that this line has been reserved by the UK Government for 18 months, thereby giving it exclusive access for the production of COVID-19 vaccines. 

We also spoke about the glass vials used to contain the vaccine and why these are in such high demand. “The issue here is an issue of supply and demand… it is just a case of trying to keep up,” I said, also highlighting that pharmaceutical companies conducting clinical trials of their COVID-19 vaccines will still require the glass needed for vials. However, this demand may impact companies needing the glass for other approved vaccines. Indeed, one company in Germany has stopped taking reservations for its glass until the COVID-19 vaccines in question have regulatory approval, to guarantee that their product will go towards directly combatting the pandemic.

Speaking about the robustness of the supply chain, I said that due to the unprecedented nature of the current situation, delays are very possible – as they would be in any supply chain. Despite this, everyone involved in producing the vaccine is working as hard as possible to roll it out to patients and mitigate any challenges that may arise: “People are working at full capacity to get the vaccine out to patients in the UK.” 

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