Under the Covid vaccine debacle, 30 years of government guilt

At first, it seemed the agency had attracted two big pharmaceutical companies – Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline – but their involvement turned out to be temporary. The companies already had contracts with the agency to work on vaccines against influenza pandemics. It was a separate corner of biodefense that attracted major manufacturers because they could use much of the same technology and equipment for their seasonal flu shots.

In 2012, BARDA incorporated the Novartis influenza vaccine plant in North Carolina into the new program, and GlaxoSmithKline agreed to work as a subcontractor with another successful bidder, Texas A&M University.

Within a few years, however, the two pharmaceutical companies withdrew. Novartis has decided to withdraw from the influenza vaccine business and GlaxoSmithKline has ceased to participate in the program with Texas A&M. The university persevered, and in 2020 the government enlisted her to make Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine, which is not yet licensed for use in the United States.

But it is the third successful bidder on which the government relied the most when the coronavirus pandemic arrived: Emergent.

AT congressional hearing in May the scene was strangely familiar, but this time the crisis was on an unprecedented scale.

Mr El-Hibri, faced with furious questions, declared Emerg’s manufacturing problems “unacceptable” and promised improvements – just as he had done two decades earlier when called upon to answer questions. difficulties in his business manufacturing anthrax vaccines. Emergent was far from perfect, he said, but he had taken on a difficult task when others had not.

“Everyone has approached this issue with their eyes wide open,” said Mr. El-Hibri, “that this is a facility that has never manufactured a licensed product before, that it is a facility which, although not in perfect condition by far, was the facility with the highest level of readiness.


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