Johnson & Johnson runs into vaccine supply issues in Europe, threatening 2nd-quarter delivery pledge: Reuters

Johnson & Johnson execs have assured investors and officials that the company is "comfortable" hitting its vaccine delivery targets. But with its U.S. rollout underway, the pharma giant has run into some supply problems in Europe, Reuters reports.

J&J’s shot isn’t yet authorized in Europe, but the company has been gearing up to supply a promised 55 million doses during the second quarter—and now it's hitting some snags, an official involved in supply talks told the news service. The shot is expected to win an EU authorization in the coming days, Reuters reports, and vaccinations in the bloc could start next month. 

The company notified European officials last week that it was “under stress” to meet the goal because of shortfalls in the supply of production materials, the source told Reuters. J&J might still be able to meet its target, the official added.

Two documents—a German health ministry internal document and a schedule published by Italian officials—confirm that J&J committed to delivering 55 million doses in the second quarter, according to Reuters. 

The news comes after execs assured analysts during the company’s first-quarter conference call that J&J was “comfortable” meeting all its delivery targets for the year. Still, CFO Joe Wolk acknowledged on the call there could be some “fluidity” to delivery timelines. J&J has pledged 200 million doses to Europe for 2021.

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J&J is gearing up to produce up to 1 billion doses with its partners with year, but early supplies have been limited. In the U.S., J&J vaccine availability is expected to start ramping up dramatically later this month.

In a published statement, J&J reaffirmed its "commitment to deliver 200 million doses of its single-dose COVID-19 vaccine candidate to the EU in 2021 starting in the second quarter."

'We continue to start up and activate new manufacturing sites as quickly as possible, such as the collaborations with Catalent, Reig Jofre and Sanofi Pasteur," the company said.

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Europe is already getting off to a slower start in its vaccination effort than the U.S., U.K. and other countries, and more supply issues would only add to the pain.  

AstraZeneca’s vaccine, one of the shots authorized there, ran into production issues that triggered a tense back-and-forth between executives and government officials. AstraZeneca plans to deliver 40 million doses in the first quarter of 2021. For the second quarter, the company is tapping its global supply chain to help fulfill its European commitment. 

About half of the 180 million doses slated to be delivered to Europe in the second quarter will come from elsewhere, a company spokesman previously said. 

Meanwhile, the team of Pfizer and BioNTech and Moderna are also underway with distribution in Europe. Those companies have also partnered with various companies in their push to produce billions of doses.