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J&J takes over vaccine plant where 15M of its doses were contaminated in mixup with AstraZeneca

J&J takes over vaccine plant where 15M of its doses were contaminated in mixup with AstraZeneca

Nurses prepare a flu shot vaccine at a clinic in Boston. | Reuters/Jonathan Grant and Jirka Taylor

The Biden administration has stopped the production of the Oxford AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine at a plant in Baltimore after a contract manufacturer mixed up ingredients from the AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson vaccines, spoiling millions of doses of the latter's vaccine.

The contract manufacturer, Emergent BioSolutions, which had been making both vaccines, was asked Saturday to halt production, and Johnson & Johnson will now solely produce its single-dose vaccine at the plant, The New York Times reported.

The contract manufacturer’s mistake has contaminated about 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but it was found out before any of the spoilt doses were shipped, The Times (of London) noted.

The American company Johnson & Johnson said it was “assuming full responsibility” of the facility in Baltimore, and pledged to deliver 100 million doses for the U.S. by the end of May.

"While the AstraZeneca vaccine has yet to be authorized for use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Biden administration has entered loan deals to send 2.5 million and 1.5 million U.S.-manufactured doses to Mexico and Canada, respectively," according to The Epoch Times.

The Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca, which was developed in partnership with Oxford University, has been asked to move its production from the Baltimore plant. Its vaccine has not been approved in the U.S., but it was producing doses with the hope that it would soon be authorized for emergency use.

AstraZeneca confirmed in a statement on Saturday that it’s looking for an alternative location. 

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New Orleans has raised concerns about the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, however. In a statement released in March, the archdiocese urged the faithful to refrain from taking the Janssen/Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines due to its use of aborted fetal cells in production and testing.

The statement began by acknowledging that all coronavirus vaccines have used "morally compromised cell lines created from two abortions that occurred, one in the 1970s and one in the 1980s."

However, the archdiocese added: " ... though there was some lab testing that utilized the abortion-derived cell line, the two vaccines ... available from Pfizer and Moderna do not rely on cell lines from abortions in the manufacturing process and therefore can be morally acceptable for Catholics as the connection to abortion is extremely remote." 

The archdiocese maintained that it "must instruct Catholics that the latest vaccine from Janssen/Johnson & Johnson is morally compromised as it uses the abortion-derived cell line in development and production of the vaccine as well as the testing."

"We advise that if the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine is available, Catholics should choose to receive either of those vaccines rather than to receive the new Johnson & Johnson vaccine because of its extensive use of abortion-derived cell lines."

The AstraZeneca vaccine has been criticized in the U.S. for using outdated data in the results of its clinical vaccine trial and not counting some coronavirus infection cases.

AstraZeneca, however, is cheaper than other vaccines on the global market. It's also stored more easily and has already started shipping to low- and middle-income countries that signed onto the global vaccine sharing program Covax.

But recently, most countries in the European Union, including Spain, France, Italy and Germany, have suspended the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine amid fears of rare blood clots and abnormal bleeding.

The pharmaceutical company and health officials in the region insist, however, there is no cause for alarm.

Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, said at a news conference last month that they were still studying the possibility of rare side effects from the vaccine, but there was “no indication that vaccination has caused these conditions.”

“While the investigation is ongoing, we are currently still firmly convinced that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine in preventing COVID-19, with its associated risk of hospitalization, outweigh the risk of the side effects,” she said, according to The New York Times.

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