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- When the plant in Marburg is running at full speed, 750 million Biontech vaccine doses a year will soon be able to leave the production halls. (picture alliance / AP / Michael Probst)
Is the wait for another coronavirus vaccine coming to an end soon? In the future, around 750 million vaccine doses are to be filled in the Biontech plant in Marburg. But before that, there are still technical challenges to be mastered.
If everything goes as planned, most of the vaccination doses targeted for the EU could soon be manufactured by Biontech at the Marburg plant. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has granted approval for production in the Hessian university town. Annually up to 750 million vaccination doses could be delivered from there if the plant is 100 percent up and running.
However, there are still some technical challenges to be mastered, says the journalist and Hessen correspondent Ludger Fittkau. Those entrusted with the production speak of over 50,000 technical steps that are necessary to manufacture the vaccine against Covid-19 from the supplied “raw material”.
Technical retrofitting is complex
An example: The vaccine was originally supposed to be bottled by Sanofi Pasteur in the Marburg plant, but in the end it did not receive EMA approval. The competitor now wants to support the production of the Biontech vaccine instead.
But the factory has prepared for 10 milliliter ampoules for the Sanofi vaccine, explains Fittkau. The Biontech bottle only holds two milliliters. “And that’s a technical problem.” Because: All devices related to filling must be adapted accordingly.
According to Matthias Braun, the managing director of Sanofi Germany for pharmaceutical production and manufacturing, the components required for this are not in stock and have to be manufactured from scratch. “It’s a process that can take two months,” says Fittkau. And: “Even German authorities still have to approve the production steps.”