During the first months after the various COVID vaccines received emergency approval from the FDA, Emergent BioSolutions in Baltimore, Maryland became a rising star in the pharmaceutical industry. They emerged as early manufacturers of both the Johnson & Johnson and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines. They were granted more than $600 million in government contracts, promising to create not only vital medication but plentiful jobs in a city with a collapsing economy. But the good news didn’t last long. Problems with their production lines quickly emerged and huge batches of the vaccines wound up being spoiled in some fashion, then needing to be destroyed. The company eventually lost their government contract last year. But a recent report from CBS News in Baltimore dives into a government analysis of the problems at Emergent and finds that things were even worse than the public was initially told. The number of destroyed doses was millions higher than had been reported and the company is being accused of intentionally falsifying data and hiding information from government inspectors.
During the darkest days of the pandemic, Emergent BioSolutions’ Baltimore facility emerged as a bright spot.
It was poised to make millions of doses of life-saving coronavirus vaccine on a government contract worth more than $600 million—a point of pride for the city. Governor Larry Hogan soon got his own personal tour and sang Emergent’s praises.
But problems quickly surfaced that vaccines were being contaminated and had to be thrown out.
Congressional investigation finds Emergent BioSolutions—once hailed as a bright spot in the darkest days of the pandemic for producing vaccines in Baltimore—ruined almost 400 million doses and hid evidence from government inspectors. Full report: https://t.co/C3mVbZ0aWv @wjz
— Mike Hellgren (@HellgrenWJZ) May 10, 2022
The report indicates that nearly 400 million doses of vaccine had been contaminated and had to be destroyed. That’s nearly double the amount that Emergent had publicly admitted to initially. The contamination was not always “incidental” due to flaws in the manufacturing process. At times, Emergent workers mixed up the recipes for the two vaccines, producing unusable products.
Many of the errors were ascribed to “inexperienced staff and high staff turnover.” Mistakes were being made because the company’s workers didn’t know how to properly do their jobs in some cases.
It wasn’t just a case of unprepared workers making honest mistakes, though. The company was found to have deliberately removed tags from batches of ruined vaccines when government inspectors visited the plant. They were found to have falsified their records, making it appear as if they were actually producing more correctly produced doses than they actually had.
With that volume of errors taking place and a deliberate effort to hide information from inspectors, you really have to wonder how many spoiled doses somehow made it out the door and eventually into people’s arms. How many people were walking around with legitimate CDC cards, thinking they were protected from the virus, when the injections they received may not have done anything for them? Without having full confidence in the records that Emergent BioSolutions provided to the government, we’re probably never going to know the answers to those questions with any degree of certainty.
If it is established that the company deliberately falsified records and misled inspectors, this sounds like a situation that requires more than just the suspension of Emergent’s federal contracts. Somebody needs to be put on trial.