Adding up manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines

Collective COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing projections top 8 billion doses annually

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COVID-19 vaccine makers have collectively projected manufacturing capacity for more than 8 billion doses next year, a number that would be big enough to cover the entire global population if all of the vaccines were successful and required only a single dose.

Initial shortages seem a near certainty, however, given that even if several vaccines eventually prove safe and effective, they won’t become available at the same time. On top of that, the shortages of vials, needles and other requirements for mass vaccination programs will hamper the ability to effectively immunize whole populations.

Still, the combined production power seems to be approaching the right scale for the job. The question will be how to rapidly reallocate or scale up production of specific vaccines once efficacy data start rolling in.

Figure: Combined COVID-19 vaccine production projections reach global scale

At least 24 companies have made public projections of their manufacturing capacity for COVID-19 vaccines, according to a roundup by BioCentury of press releases, company statements and SEC filings. The group includes all ten companies with novel clinical vaccines, minus Symvivo Corp., a small Canadian biotech whose BacTRL-Spike is in Phase I testing.

According to BioCentury’s COVID-19 Resource Center, at least 129 vaccines are in preclinical development for the indication. How much each would add to the capacity or whether they will ultimately be competing for CDMO capacity remains to be seen.

Together, the 24 groups with disclosed manufacturing plans will produce their vaccines in at least 13 countries, and eight have said they’ll manufacture in at least two countries, which should help make the vaccines accessible to more people in more places, considering much of the initial supplies are expected go to the countries in which the vaccines are made (see “Manufacturing Limits Spark Fears of COVID-19 Vaccine Nationalism”).

Table: COVID-19 vaccine production: who, what, when and where

Source: company websites and SEC filings.

All of the vaccines are early-stage, from preclinical to Phase I/II, and there are no definitive data to indicate which ones will be the success stories. In many cases, differences in study design make the data hard to compare (see “Making Sense of Early COVID-19 Vaccine Data”).

Xuefeng Yu, co-founder, chairman and CEO of CanSino Biologics Inc. (HKEX:6185), told BioCentury on a webinar that use of a higher dose or two doses may get around the weaker immune responses seen in subjects with pre-existing antibodies against the viral vector used in CanSino’s vaccine; the subjects represented about half the study population in the company’s recently released Phase I results. CanSino was one the first two companies to report preliminary human data (see “Preparing for COVID-19 Vaccine Success”).

A need for two doses of any of the vaccines could mean that their supplies will stretch half as far.

An open question is whether companies with vaccines that do not pan out in the clinic will throw their manufacturing capabilities behind the vaccines that do succeed.

Translate Bio Inc. (NASDAQ:TBIO) previously told BioCentury it would consider pitching in this way (see “Translate Bio Brings Chronic Disease-Scale Manufacturing to COVID-19 mRNA Vaccine”).

“It’s going to probably encompass the entire global vaccine capacity that’s out there, and then some,” said CEO Ron Renaud. “It’s a decision we would have to make with our partners at Sanofi Pasteur, but certainly we would want to be part of the solution.”

Switching from manufacturing one vaccine to another is not trivial, however, especially if they involve different modalities (see “Pharma Leaders Warn Vaccine Manufacturing Doesn’t Turn on a Dime”).

Several vaccine makers are working on building out their capabilities, and are projecting higher capacity after 2021.

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