To Twitter, Maurício Zuma, director of Bio-Manguinhos –unit of Fiocruz which produces the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine— said it has already “turned on the yellow alert” for possible delays in deliveries to PNI (National Immunization Plan) after refusals by foreign companies to fly to the country.
According to him, the records of deaths and new strains of the disease are the reasons for the resistance of international companies to send flights. As a result, the production of Fiocruz’s immunizers against covid-19 is at risk, since the materials are considered essential for the production line.
Disposable supplies and chemical reagents are among the items that are difficult to purchase at the moment. Zuma says that the high demand for these supplies in the international market is another obstacle faced today for the acquisition.
Fiocruz’s commercial and logistics sectors are now trying to make alternative flights feasible and companies willing to land in Brazil, according to Zuma. The researcher fears, however, that new dropouts will affect the production line soon.
Asked, the director of Bio-Manguinhos was unable to inform which companies were the ones that refused to land in Brazil and their countries of origin. O Twitter he then forwarded the request to Fiocruz’s press office, which, by means of a note, admitted difficulties with international transportation and cited other reasons for the cancellation of flights.
“The airlines have a reduced network and are facing constant problems with lack of crew. This scenario generates increased deadlines for receiving cargo, with delays and rescheduling of flights. Boarding schedules are postponed, flights are canceled or we pass due to the lack of space for our aircraft cargo “, says the statement.
Machine failure paralyzed production for a week
In February, a problem with a machine rescuing —That seals the vials — of the vaccine’s processing line caused production to be halted for a week and Fiocruz to experience delays.
We have been producing immunizers, despite flight cancellations with supplies. In addition to the huge international demand for these products, there are companies that currently do not want to travel to Brazil. This makes us turn on the ‘yellow alert’ for possible material shortages.
Mauritius Zuma, director of Bio-Manguinhos from Fiocruz
“Today, we strive to bring higher volumes of cargo and avoid shortages of these products. But, if we have such cancellations ahead, when production [de vacinas] is bigger, we will have problems “, he completes.
Asked if the health crisis in Brazil could affect vaccination, Zuma replied that this “may be a consequence of the worsening of the entire crisis”.
The production of vaccines by Fiocruz depends on more than 500 items, including chemical supplies and laboratory utensils – for some of these inputs, such as bottles and packaging, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation is self-sufficient. For others, it depends on imports, as there is no national production to meet the technical requirements of the vaccine.
Delivery forecast has already faced reductions
In January, Fiocruz projections predicted the delivery of 15 million doses of the vaccine in March and another 28 million in April.
In the coming days, the institution promises to deliver the last doses manufactured in March, which will total 4.2 million vaccines to the PNI. For April, the expectation is also more modest than that made at the beginning of the year: in total, 18.8 million immunizers should be made available.
Zuma denies that the numbers are lower because of the machinery breakdown in February. According to him, this was one of the problems faced since the beginning of production.
“The schedule that predicted 15 million vaccines in March was an expectation on top of what had been discussed with the AstraZeneca at that point, there was no technical information. In February, we had a problem that left us a few days without production and we need to return to production at a slower pace than the previous one. We also had problems with receiving IFAs [Ingredientes Farmacêuticos Ativos] of China “, he says.
Currently, Fiocruz works with two production lines and daily manufacture of 900 thousand vaccines. One of these lines works in two shifts, while the other in just one. The institute’s intention is to make the second line also operate at its fullest, which would allow the production of 1.2 million vaccines per day.
“Until May, we intend to work in this way, but we still need to fulfill some technical requirements”, he justifies. The researcher explains that there is a difference between the volume of immunizers produced and distributed to the PNI.
“Each dose manufactured in the laboratories takes up to 21 days to pass through all quality analyzes. Therefore, the volume of doses manufactured in a week does not immediately reflect the number of vaccines passed on to the PNI”, he concludes.
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