Chinese COVID-19 vaccine vial suppliers plan large capacity expansions to meet demand
Nation’s COVID-19 vaccine supply chains prepare
Published: Jan 17, 2021 08:49 PM

Photo taken on Jan. 6, 2021 shows COVID-19 vaccines at a packaging plant of Sinovac Research and Development Co., Ltd. in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua/Zhang Yuwei)

With tight vial supplies in some countries that are threatening the delivery of coronavirus vaccines, China's vial makers will greatly expand production capacity.

Some analysts have estimated that at three doses per person, 5 billion vials would be needed for a global penetration rate of 20 percent for COVID-19 vaccines, and nearly 16 billion vials would be needed for a penetration rate of 70 percent, media reports have said.

A manager surnamed Qi at Shandong Pharmaceutical Glass, which makes vials for medicines and vaccines, told the Global Times on Sunday that the company's annual vial production can reach billions units, including 3 billion for low and neutral borosilicate glass.

"Most of our orders now are from domestic vaccine producers, including those for the novel coronavirus, and we plan to double our annual output," said Qi.

A manager at Jiangsu Famacy Glass Co surnamed Wu told the Global Times on Sunday that domestic and overseas orders have increased, so production capacity will be expanded.

"Our current capacity of vaccine glass bottles is 1 million per day, and we plan to double that due to high demand," said Wu. 

Work has started on new facilities, and they're expected to be completed in six months. 

The China Vaccine Industry Association has said that China's annual production of vaccine vials can reach at least 8 billion, enough to meet the need for novel coronavirus vaccines.

A source at Sinovac Biotech told the Global Times on Sunday that so far there has been no shortage of vials.

Other issue adding to the requirements of the vaccine supply chain in some countries is the rising amount of disinfection work needed for vials before use.

A company in Switzerland that provides disinfection service for vaccine vials is giving priority to vials for COVID-19, CCTV news reported on Sunday.

Based on current orders, the company will sterilize 220 million vaccine vials this year, up more than 20 percent from 2020, according to the report.

Vial disinfection has not been an issue for vaccine suppliers in China, because many, like Sinovac Biotech, do the work themselves for quality reasons.

There are several procedures involved, including the use of ultrasonic equipment for pre-cleaning and water washing before drying the vials at 350 C, the company told the Global Times on Sunday.

All the washing and disinfection equipment used by Sinovac Biotech is domestically made, according to media reports.

With the experience, techniques and capacity in the supply of other vaccines for China's huge population, domestic companies are prepared for the situation, experts said.

Shares of vial producers have gone against the stock market trend in China. Shandong Pharmaceutical Glass rose 1.98 percent on Friday, while Chongqing Zhengchuan Pharmaceutical Packaging was up 1.71 percent. In contrast, the Shanghai Composite Index was up only 0.01 percent and the Shenzhen Component Index fell 0.26 percent on Friday.
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