Coronavirus Vaccine Production Faces Common Manufacturing Problems

Everything has a supply chain, even vaccines.

April 22, 2020 - Scientists around the world are racing to develop a vaccine to fight COVID-19. Hopefully they will have success soon. Once they have found something promising and after it's been tested and proven, there remains the challenge of manufacturing it in ginormous quantities. The challenges of manufacturing and distributing a vaccine are surprisingly similar to those of manufacturing any new product. Common things sometimes become stumbling blocks and things you never thought to consider can bite you in the butt.

As it turns out, a current shortage of sand may slow down vaccine development. How? Sand is the core ingredient of glass; glass is necessary for the lab equipment used to mix up batches of vaccine; right now there's a shortage of lab glass. The shortage is a result of sand being used heavily in construction (for concrete and windows) and to replenish shorelines that are suffering erosion from rising sea levels and more frequent and stronger storms. The shortage of sand for laboratory glass is a temporary problem, but it is slowing things down.

Then there are problems with plastic bags and tree bark from South America.

Here's more from Maggie Koerth and Anna Rothschild at FiveThirtyEight:

- Mike Marks

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