The Baltimore facility is one of two federally designated locations to manufacture vaccines or therapeutics in an emergency for public health. In June 2020, the Trump administration placed a $ 628 million contract with Emergent, primarily to reserve space in Baltimore for coronavirus vaccine manufacturing.
In Washington, Emergent is known for aggressive lobbying and government relations that include both Democratic and Republican governments. The company’s board of directors is made up of former federal officials, and lobbyists include former members of Congress.
“We’ve been around as a company for 22 years,” Kramer said Thursday, adding that the company’s relationships with government agencies, including the biomedical advanced research and development agency known as BARDA, which has spent $ 628 million on contract , “stay intact and strong.”
In June 2020, shortly after the Trump administration awarded the contract to Emergent, a top official from Operation Warp Speed, the government’s rapid vaccine initiative, warned that the company had insufficiently trained staff and was experiencing quality control issues.
A copy of the official’s assessment received from The Times named “major risks” of relying on Emergent to manufacture vaccines developed by both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca at the same Baltimore facility.
Cross-contamination is a “known risk” in manufacturing two live virus vaccines, Kramer said Thursday, but the decision to manufacture both in Baltimore was with the government. There are several safeguards in place, Emergent said, although Emergent believes they “weren’t working as expected” and that the AstraZeneca virus likely contaminated the Johnson & Johnson batch.
“It’s easy to go back and rethink these decisions that were made in the early stages of the pandemic,” he said. “At the time, nobody knew how quickly we could get into a clinically viable vaccine and which candidates would be most successful.”