Merck supply issues delay hep B vax in Canada

Supply issues have left Canadian adults short of hepatitis B protection. Merck says the vaccine will likely be unavailable for the rest of the year, and GlaxoSmithKline is attempting to cover the shortfall.

A Merck spokesperson says in a press report that "supply disruptions have occurred due to unexpected manufacturing issues that prompted modification to some of our processes and equipment." The matter stretches back to January 2009 when the drug giant said it was upgrading equipment at a West Point, PA, plant. It projected production disruption, but said the upgrades would be completed "in a timely manner."

The spokesperson also is quoted as saying Merck is "investing in manufacturing capabilities to increase capacity and create redundancy." It is building facilities in Durham, NC, and Carlow, Ireland and expanding vaccine production operations in Elkton, VA, and Mirabel, France.

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