Moderna cuts COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to Canada, U.K. amid European supply struggles

The global COVID-19 vaccine supply is about to take another hit, but this time from Moderna. The mRNA drugmaker warned Friday that supply problems are forcing it to cut back deliveries to “a number of countries," including the U.K. and Canada. 

Moderna, which has partnered with Switzerland’s Lonza to manufacture its vaccine known as mRNA-1273, pinned the reduction on deficits in its European supply chain, specifically to “human and material resources” needed to meet its production goals.

“The trajectory of vaccine manufacturing ramp-up is not linear, and despite best efforts, there is a shortfall in previously estimated doses,” a Moderna spokesperson told Fierce Pharma in an email, adding that it is maintaining close contact with national governments to plan deliveries.

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While the company didn’t specify how many doses would be cut and where, Canada’s Procurement Minister Anita Anand said Friday that its shipments will contain 650,000 doses this month instead of the expected 1.2 million. 

Moderna also warned up to 2 million of a planned 12.3 million shots scheduled for delivery in the second quarter would be delayed until the following quarter, according to a report from Reuters. However, a company spokesperson also told the news agency that its deliveries to the EU and Switzerland remain on track. 

In its statement to Fierce Pharma, Moderna said it doesn’t stockpile doses to help smooth over delayed shipments, choosing instead to “facilitate immediacy of access by shipping doses to governments as released.” 

“While this does provide the most immediate access to our vaccine, this process will by its nature result in a more variable supply on a week-to-week basis,” the company said.

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Moderna noted in a supply update Tuesday that it’s delivered roughly 132 million doses globally so far, with approximately 117 million of those shots sent the U.S. through April 12. At that time, the biotech said it remained on track to deliver its second 100 million doses to the U.S. by the end of May, followed by another 100 million by the end of July. The company did not immediately respond to Fierce Pharma’s inquiry for an update on the status of its U.S. deliveries. 

Moderna has previously estimated it could provide between 600 million to 1 billion doses of vaccine globally by the end of 2021 thanks to its work with Lonza. However, the Swiss CDMO's chief warned in late January that it could take a couple of months to get the company's three plants up to "cruising speed." 

The reduced estimates come as countries around the globe, especially those in Europe, face crunched supply following safety concerns surrounding vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca. 

European regulators have been investigating a small number of rare and severe blood clots cropping up in some people who received J&J and AstraZeneca shots. Deliveries of J&J’s vaccine to the EU have been paused, and the use of AstraZeneca’s vaccine remains limited among individual countries.