BALTIMOR, Mrs. – In a city affected by the coronavirus, one biomedical plant produces enough doses of the vaccine to vaccinate 100 times the population.
The rescue medicine is cooked on stainless steel disks, bottled under frostbite, and then loaded into trucks that carry the vaccine hundreds of miles away. Most will never return.
On the eastern edge of Baltimore, Emergent BioSolutions manufactures almost all approved Johnson & Johnson և AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines for the US population. Expected hundreds of millions of doses in the coming months. Due to the complexity of the global supply chain, which is struggling with the weight of demand, most of these rations will not be given to residents of this city or even the state of Maryland.
Instead, the active ingredients of the vaccine, created in the company’s biomedical reactors, are transported to plants in other states, possibly other countries, just north of Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. Once the two vaccines are approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration, which in the case of Johnson & Johnson may occur early next month, they will be distributed in the United States.
Americans had a hard time understanding the logic of their country’s long-awaited spread of vaccines. Every day, millions of people scam the internet for scanty appointments while reading the news of widespread reluctance to get shot.
The shortage of drugs, which many hope will end the epidemic, has led to heated debate over the effectiveness of justice. Federal, state, district, and city health officials, not to mention national retail pharmacies, have adopted overlapping, sometimes contradictory, rules about who should be vaccinated.
The emergent plant is just one node in the decentralized production: distribution scheme. However, it is one that crystallizes the strange mixture of hope and anger that Americans feel when the end of an epidemic, if not so visible, is finally imagined.
Those sentiments are sharp in Maryland, where Republican Gov. Larry Hogan’s efforts to expand filming powers have “accelerated the slow pace of vaccinations,” and sparked fierce competition for available doses.
More than 2 million people in the state, or about a third of its population, are now eligible to receive the approximately 80,000 doses of the vaccine that Maryland receives each week from the federal government.
For some in Baltimore, the fruitful creation and rapid removal of rare drugs in their backyard is especially crucial.
“We need it here,” said Katrea Allen, a security guard at the Dollar Tree near the Emergent plant. “I think we have to get it first.”
Of the approximately 7,700 COVID-19 deaths in Maryland, nearly 900 were in Baltimore. However, more than 5 percent of the city’s population has been fully vaccinated, and racial and economic justice concerns are a priority for elected officials.
Earlier this month, Mayor Brandon M. Scott wrote a letter asking Johnson & Johnson to sell 30,000 doses of his vaccine directly to the city, bypassing the federal allocation system to “create a national model for equitable distribution of vaccines” and allowing city officials to speed up staffing, especially of colored people.
But the pharmaceutical giant has shown no signs of paying attention to the proposal, which may be impossible due to its commitments to the federal government amid a continuing national shortage of vaccines.
Paul Ofit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital, said he hoped the shortage would ease by the summer. But in the meantime, he said, the situation in Baltimore could not help but heighten people’s sense of powerlessness and injustice, as vaccines are distributed to the lucky few.
“I think the sense of fairness intensifies,” said Ofit. “When you see it done right in front of you, you still can’t get it.”
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Messages come to Sean Kirk almost every day. Relatives, acquaintances – many know that the 45-year-old is immersed in the mass production of coronavirus vaccines – many want to answer their questions.
Will the medicine be safe? What hinders the spread? And maybe above all. When will the vaccine be widely available?
“Look, I’m a vaccine boy. “I get texts all the time because they know I’m in it all,” said Kirk, chief executive officer of manufacturing and technical operations at Emergent. “I have the same desire for my family, my economy, my children to go back to school. But I also know inside the baseball that it would always be a ramp. There would never be a switch / switch. I spend a lot of time explaining it to family and friends. ”
At the Emergent plant last week, Kirk was going to explain the subtleties of vaccine development to the governor of Maryland, who was due to walk around the facility in the afternoon. Hours before Hogan arrived, Kirk was working with a Washington Post reporter on production in a room overlooking one of Emergent’s bioreactors.
The scene was reminiscent of the Superlab of the mathematical king Walter White in the TV series “Drying the Bad”. Foot-protective equipment: goggles, baby blue blankets, white gloves grinding high around a cylindrical vessel containing a distilled version of son onson և oh onson vaccines.
Like John Onson և John Onson’s AstraZeneca is made from modified adenoviruses that cannot be replicated in humans. In contrast, two vaccines currently approved for use in the United States, Moderna և Pfizer-BioNTech, use messenger RNA, which instructs the body’s cells to make the protein found in the virus, which produces COVID-19.
Both technologies stimulate the body to receive an immune response, which reduces the risk of disease. And while Moderna և Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines have been shown to be more effective in clinical trials, their competitors have other advantages.
Adenovirus vaccines are less prone to spoilage than mRNA strains, facilitating transportation and storage (especially in rural areas). And son onson և John onson vaccines, most importantly, are given in a single dose. AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech և Moderna have designed their drugs to be used with a booster.
Son Onson և John Onson vaccines are currently being reviewed by the FDA for emergency approval, which is expected to be approved in the first week of March. But White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeffrey D. Zi Yen said last week that only a few million doses would be ready by then.
The company has committed to deliver 100 million shares to the federal government by the end of June. AstraZeneca, which is undergoing clinical trials for US vaccines, has agreed to supply the country with 300 million doses. Emergent is the leading manufacturer of these drugs.
The “viral vector” of Baltimore drugs, the dense stew of domesticated pathogens that mimic the reaction, is frozen, sent to other plants for further processing, and placed in vials. AstraZeneca declined to give The Post details of the supply chain, but information provided by Johnson & Johnson indicates that a component of the Baltimore-based vaccine is being shipped to the Midwest, possibly overseas.
On the day of Hogan’s visit, the vaccines were also included. The governor brought with him a team from Rite Aid to vaccinate more than 300 Emergent employees who are eligible as key manufacturing workers. That was another strange description of America’s sophisticated vaccine delivery system. A network of national pharmacies that delivered the Moderna vaccine to Baltimore employees who made their own vaccines in other countries.
Many others in the city were not so lucky, as Hogan admitted in a speech to reporters.
“I know this is very frustrating. Everyone would like to be vaccinated immediately. We understand that, “he said. “The problem is that they need a vaccine much more, they want to have quality vaccines than we have vaccines.”
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James Ames Redmond is one of those who need a vaccine and want to get it.
He could not get it.
The day after Hogan’s visit, Redmond was smoking a cigar in the parking lot of a strip club in the Highlandtown area near the city of Ireland. Leaning on the cane, the surgical mask was pulled around his chin, the 77-year-old man said that the last time he called the city health department about a week ago, he could not order a shot.
“I’m going to get it. “All I have to do is wait,” Redmond said.
Although he stoically acknowledged the delays, Redmond said he had seen a television news item about the Emerging plant while waiting at a car wash and was puzzled.
“You think that together with all the people who made it, you would have seen it on the street by now, without the continuation of all this backwardness,” he said.
Redmond lives in a community that has suffered both disproportionate damage from COVID-19 and disproportionate problems finding the shot. Some, like him, are like this! Others, in a district where Spanish is heard as often as English, are Latin letters. Many are poor. After the virus was shut down, the seeds were hit hard. The book “We Miss You Are Safe” says the missing sign is outside the abandoned, fenced Highland Town High School # 237.
Micah Doutin, a 35-year-old glass repairman who enjoyed a potato meal in his parked truck, was shocked to learn that hundreds of millions of vaccine doses were being prepared nearby.
Doutin was still unsure if he would try the shot, saying he was worried about possible side effects, despite evidence that serious reactions were rare, but his mother, who was almost 70 years old, wanted the vaccine and was unable to get it.
“I do not understand why it is produced here and then sent to other places when there are people here who do not have it,” Doutin said. “You have to take care of the house first, don’t you?”
It was the same mood that was reflected in the mayor’s letter to Johnson & Johnson asking the company to reserve some of the Baltimore-based drugs for the city’s residents. A Johnson & Johnson spokesman declined to comment. An AstraZeneca spokesman declined to say whether the manufacturer would consider such an arrangement.
But when he left the emergency room, Hogan, when asked about Scott’s request, offered his own assessment of how likely it was that Baltimore residents would see an advantage in getting vaccines available in their hometown.
“I think it is a good experience,” he said. “I mean, everyone wants to jump in front of the line. But that will not happen. “
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Washington Post correspondent Erin Cox contributed to this report.