In Parliament yesterday, former Defence Minister John Spellar demanded transparency and answers from Vaccines Minister Nadim Zahawi on vaccine manufacturing numbers.
While praising the vaccine taskforce and British scientists “who have been brilliant in developing the vaccine”, the Black Country MP demanded the Government produce figures on vaccine manufacturing capacity, asking: “How many doses are produced each day? What is our manufacturing capacity? Are there any hold-ups or capacity problems in testing the batches? How many doses are being filled in the vials each day? Again, what is the maximum capacity?”
Speaking today, Spellar said: “In Parliament and in media interviews Ministers come across as though they aren’t on top of their briefs. We cannot have more of the same. Lives depend on Ministers getting a grip and taking urgent and proactive action on getting vaccines to as many people as possible, identifying blockages and problems in the system and dealing with them.”
All credit and our great thanks to the vaccine taskforce and to our scientists, who have been brilliant in developing the vaccine. In our history, it has often been production engineering that has let us down, so may we have some figures? How many doses are produced each day? What is our manufacturing capacity? Are there any hold-ups or capacity problems in testing the batches? How many doses are being filled in the vials each day? Again, what is the maximum capacity?
It is not our capacity, but the manufacturers’; AstraZeneca produces the Oxford vaccine, and Pfizer-BioNTech produce their vaccine, and Moderna’s is now also approved and in process. There are a number of processes throughout the manufacturing process. When we go from the bulk vaccine into fill and finish, there is a period of time and a sterility test the vaccines have to go through. Then there is batch testing by both the manufacturer and the regulator. All of that gets better and better every single day. It is a new manufacturing process. Oxford-AstraZeneca are delivering 100 million vaccines, which is what we have bought from them, and we have bought 40 million from Pfizer. We will have millions of vaccines in the weeks and months to come. We will meet our target of mid February for delivering the opportunity of a vaccine to the four cohorts most vulnerable to covid.