Lonza taps temporary workers from Nestlé in COVID shot production push: report

The Herculean push to produce enough COVID-19 vaccines for the world's population has led to some unexpected partnerships. Now, one contract manufacturer is tapping a local food giant for help.

Lonza is recruiting temporary workers from Nestlé to help fill vacancies at its Swiss vaccine plant, where the CDMO is cranking out ingredients for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, Reuters reports, citing Swiss broadcaster RTS. 

Lonza, for its part, isn't commenting on the matter, a spokeswoman told Fierce Pharma via email. 

The move, reportedly facilitated by the Swiss government, comes shortly after Moderna blamed projected delivery cutbacks in "a number of countries" on deficits of “human and material resources” in its European supply chain. Lonza itself has struggled to recruit enough specialized personnel for its vaccine production push, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said last week at a summit on pandemic vaccine scale-up.

"This is why there has been, in some countries, a little bit of delays in the past week or two," he said. The CEO added that Lonza was pulling out all the stops to fill the gaps in its roster.

Last week, the Swiss government gave employees at a Nestlé research center until Monday to volunteer for a three-month stint at Lonza, RTS reported. Nestlé wouldn't offer specific details, but a company spokesperson told the broadcaster it wanted to play "an active role in global vaccination," Reuters wrote. 

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For its part, Moderna last week said it would scale back planned vaccine deliveries to a handful of countries, including the U.K. and Canada, thanks to production holdups in Europe. On Friday, Canada's Procurement Minister Anita Anand said the country would receive just 650,000 doses by the end of April instead of an expected 1.2 million. 

Responding to staffing shortfalls, Lonza is switching workers over from other projects at its Visp, Switzerland, plant, hiring new employees and reaching out to other pharmas for help, Bancel said last week.

RELATED: Lonza's Visp manufacturing lines, tapped in COVID-19 vaccine push, will take time to hit 'cruising speed': report

Meanwhile, the reported Nestle deal isn't the only instance of a government stepping in to unite unusual partners in the fight against COVID-19. Sanofi earlier this week said it would chip in on fill-finish work for Moderna's shot at its Ridgefield, New Jersey plant starting in September. Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson thanked the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Biden administration for helping to “facilitate this new partnership," with Moderna echoing the sentiment.

As of Tuesday, April 27, Moderna had delivered some 125 million vaccine doses to the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.