Merck expands facility to increase HPV jab supply

April 5, 2022

Merck is adding 150 new jobs and committing to expand access to the company’s HPV jabs as part of its Virginia manufacturing facility expansion.

The company has recently expanded its plant in Elkton, Virginia by 120,000 square feet — about the size of two NFL  football fields. Merck said the expansion will allow the company to increase vaccine manufacturing and supply capacity.

The company’s supply of its HPV vaccine, called Gardasil, has doubled in the period from 2017  to 2020. Merck predicted it would double again by 2024 as the company beefs up its production capabilities.

Merck has committed to providing HPV vaccines as the global need continues to rise. In 2019, the New Jersey-based company committed more than $1 billion to expand production capacity and build new facilities. It also signed an agreement with UNICEF to provide 91.5 billion doses of its HPV vaccine from 2021 to 2025, with the possibility for additional doses to be provided as demand grows.

The construction wrapped up earlier than expected, according to senior vice president of Merck Manufacturing, Jacks Lee. The expansion was originally announced in 2019. At the time of the announcement, the 1.1 million-square-foot Elkton facility employed more than 900 workers.

“Increasing supply of our HPV vaccines is a top priority, and over the last several years we have steadily increased our manufacturing capacity in response to growing global demand,” said Lee.

Also back in 2019, Merck invested $680 million in new manufacturing space and expanded packaging space to support Gardasil production. At the time of the announcement, the drugmaker said it would invest more than $680 million to build a 225,000-square-foot API plant at its Maurice R. Hilleman Center for Vaccine Manufacturing in Durham, North Carolina, and expand packaging facilities in nearby Wilson, North Carolina. The predicted expansion will create more than 400 jobs, 391 in Durham and 34 in Wilson, according to Merck.