CMOs face vaccine-related labor crunch

Jan. 8, 2021

Contract manufacturers working to accelerate the global availability of COVID-19 vaccines are struggling with a worker shortage, says a Wall Street Journal report.

Some CMOs, such as Emergent BioSolutions have ramped up recruiting efforts. Emergent, based in Maryland, has COVID-related deals with both AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Back in the fall, the company enlisted its CEO and senior executives to pitch potential hires at a virtual career fair. But still, Emergent has roughly 200 openings for warehouse associates, quality-assurance analysts and even a supply-chain management director.

In fact, according to a WSJ analysis, more than 5,000 open jobs exist at the world’s 10 largest companies involved in COVID-19 outsourcing work.

Possibly anticipating the crunch, many drugmakers secured spots with CMOs early. In April, J&J signed a joint manufacturing deal with Catalent Biologics to help produce the 600-900 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine candidate it has promised by 2021. Moderna announced a strategic collaboration with Lonza in May, followed by a fill-finish deal with Catalent in June

The pharma industry, and manufacturing in general, is no stranger to labor shortages. A long-standing fact remains that there’s a wide disparity between the number of people entering the field of manufacturing and the needs of the industry. According to Deloitte, estimates put the manufacturing labor shortage at 2.4 million by 2028.

With global production of COVID-19 vaccines expected to reach 6 billion doses in 2021, and pharma companies with a potential vaccine candidates enlisting the help of contract manufacturers to help meet production targets, the battle for talent could become fierce.