Moderna to Boost Covid-19 Vaccine Production to Meet Rising Demand

Moderna Inc. MRNA -2.58% plans to spend billions of dollars to boost production of Covid-19 vaccines and potentially triple its yearly output of doses in 2022, as the company seeks to meet rising global demand.

The Cambridge, Mass., biotech company said Thursday it could produce up to three billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines in 2022, compared with a projected output of up to one billion this year.

Moderna also said it would make no less than 800 million doses this year, up from a minimum 700 million it had forecast previously.

The increased output is a fresh sign that Western Covid-19 vaccine makers, after a slow start, are expanding their manufacturing capabilities as they gain more experience making the shots.

It comes as countries like India with rising Covid-19 cases are lagging in vaccination campaigns and searching for more doses that could protect their populations, especially as more contagious variants emerge.

More than a year into the pandemic, a handful of vaccines developed in the West, China and Russia have gone into use.

Moderna has been securing more supply agreements for its shot, which hasn’t been dogged by the efficacy and safety concerns surrounding some other Covid-19 vaccines or by the same degree of manufacturing issues.

More countries have expressed interest during the last month in securing additional supplies of Moderna’s vaccines beyond current supply contracts, Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said in an interview.

Last week, Moderna signed a new supply agreement with Israel for 2022 that includes an option for doses of a vaccine targeting variants.

“We really believe that the virus is going to keep evolving fast with new mutations, and that variant boosters are a must for us to stop this pandemic,” Mr. Bancel said.

Moderna said it expects its output for 2022 to be a mix of its current authorized vaccine and new shots it is developing to target certain variants. The extra doses would supply the U.S. and other countries, the company said.

The company’s new spending to expand production, Mr. Bancel said, would cover hiring new employees and securing raw materials and new equipment.

Moderna said it plans to double the manufacturing of the core vaccine ingredient, known as drug substance, at a plant in Switzerland operated by contract manufacturer Lonza Group AG .

The company also plans, it said, to more than double the capacity for the next steps of the manufacturing process—formulating, filling vials and finishing packaging—at a plant in Spain operated by Laboratorios Farmaceuticos Rovi SA ROVI 2.01% .

Moderna’s plans for boosting production outside the U.S. would shore up a supply chain that hasn’t been able to keep up with demand from other countries.

Moderna earlier this month said it expects a shortfall in doses it will deliver to countries outside the U.S. including the U.K. and Canada. Mr. Bancel attributed the expected shortfalls to delays in recruiting new production workers at Lonza’s Swiss plant.

In the U.S., Moderna said it plans to increase production of drug substance by 50% at its own plant in Norwood, Mass. The company also said it plans to add new manufacturing partners to handle fill-finish for doses.

Moderna’s U.S. production is currently reserved for the U.S. vaccine supply.

The company’s yield will also benefit from the lower doses expected for booster shots, Moderna said.

Moderna’s current Covid-19 vaccine is given in two doses totaling 200 micrograms of messenger RNA. The company’s potential booster shots could come in doses of 50 micrograms or lower.

Moderna said it hasn’t determined what the product mix will be between its original vaccine and variant booster shots.

Covid-19 Vaccines

Write to Peter Loftus at peter.loftus@wsj.com

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