Pfizer expects to cut the amount of time it takes to produce a batch of COVID-19 vaccine from 110 days to 60 days as it makes the process more efficient.
“We call this ‘Project Light Speed,’ and it’s called that for a reason,” said Chaz Calitri, Pfizer’s vice president for operations for sterile injectables, who runs the company’s plant in Kalamazoo, Michigan. “Just in the last month we’ve doubled output.”
The increased speed and capacity is not unexpected, according to a vaccine production consulting firm.
“Nobody’s ever produced mRNA vaccines at this scale, so you can bet your bottom dollar the manufacturers are learning as they go. I bet you every day they run into some vaccine challenge and every day they solve it, and that goes into their playbook,” said one expert.
Pfizer’s vaccine is produced at three different Pfizer plants. It starts at Chesterfield, Missouri, then moves to Andover, Massachusetts, and ends up at Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Calitri said production would normally take years improving cost-effectiveness and efficiency, but that did not happen with COVID-19. Engineers began immediately analyzing for effective production, and are daily solving challenges.
Making the DNA that starts the process used to take 16 days, and will soon take nine or 10 days. Pfizer is also adding production lines in all three plants, and more efficiencies are expected.
As of Saturday, over 20 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered.