The US, EU and Japan are looking to stock up on more mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna to keep their vaccination programs on track, as safety concerns and production problems sideline the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs, which use adenovirus vectors, as reported in the Financial Post.
Both Moderna and Pfizer said they are working to increase output above their 2021 production targets of up to 1 billion and 2.5 billion shots, respectively.
Pfizer this week said it is targeting a 10% increase in US dose deliveries through May and 50 million more doses for Europe in the second quarter of 2021. The EU is also negotiating for up to 1.8 billion Pfizer doses for 2022 and 2023.
CureVac, which is testing its own mRNA vaccine, said requests for its shot have increased over the past few days following the pause on Johnson & Johnson's vaccine rollout in the US and Europe. CureVac expects to file for European authorization in late May or early June.
However, the higher cost, production limits and demanding requirements for shipping and storage could limit mRNA-based vaccines’ availability in lower income countries, experts said.
"The raw materials needed for mRNA manufacturing and production are not cheap right now," said Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Hartaj Singh, adding "in the second half of this year, we'll see the conversation change to, 'okay, how can we help the developing world get their hands on mRNA vaccines.'"
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