The UK’s manufacturing capacity for vaccines is likely to come under significant pressure if the global race to find COVID-19 vaccine throws up an early winner.
In the event of success, there will be an immediate demand for billions of doses to be produced using facilities that were not designed to produce such quantities. The UK has made a start with the proposed plans to accelerate the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) completing a year earlier than planned in 2021 and producing 70 million doses within 4-6 months.
But scaling up of manufacturing may differ depending on vaccine type, so it’s a further challenge to prepare facilities without knowing which vaccine platform is to be used. There’s also the potential for bottlenecks in the supply chain, such as scarcity of specific lipids, or appropriate dosage vials.
Resources for COVID-19 manufacture will also have to be balanced against the continued need for other vaccines such as influenza, measles, mumps and rubella.
If we are to meet the production challenge, offsite manufacturing has a crucial role to play in the construction of rapidly deployable fixed or mobile BSL 4 facilities that enable manufacturing start-up in just a few weeks.