Though the focus of the US government has been on investing in vaccine candidates for the novel coronavirus, it has also begun working on the additional materials needed to roll out a vaccine on a nationwide scale.
Last month, the US provided $138m (€127m) to secure a supply of plastic, prefilled syringes that could be used to deliver any potential vaccine developed.
Yesterday, a similar move was repeated, after SiO2 Materials Science received a $143m contract from the Department of Defense, alongside the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), to scale-up the production of primary packaging for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics.
“The nation can produce all the vaccines we want, but we must have appropriate containers to store them and deliver them to patients safely,” said Robert Langer, institute professor at MIT and advisor to SiO2, reflecting the US government’s efforts to scale the availability of primary packaging.
According to SiO2, it produces vials and syringes that have a thermal stability range from -196˚C to 121˚C, allowing for the transportation of temperature-controlled vaccines and therapies. The products themselves are made through a combination of a plastic container and a glass coating.
As a result of being primarily plastic, the syringes are molded and can be up to 15 times more ‘dimensionally consistent’ than glass.
As well as this, SiO2’s vials possess gas permeation properties, similar to glass, and therefore have sustained shelf life, the company outlined.
SiO2 itself is based in Alabama, US, maintaining the current administration’s preference for promoting manufacturing within the country.
With the additional funding, SiO2 stated that it would be able to hire 200 more staff members, effectively doubling its current workforce.
The pandemic has led to a ‘surge’ in customer demand, the company’s chief business officer, Lawrence Ganti, suggested.
The US government’s work to source supplies of specialized materials is part of ‘Operation Warp Speed’, which aims to have a vaccine ready to be delivered to the US population by the beginning of 2021.