Before The Shot In The Arm

Planet Money


So we have the magic potion. We have three vaccines that will probably be on the market soon and now now we have to put them in something. We are talking about special. Various dot. After tiny little glass vials. You can't just use any kind of glass for this. The glass reuse was invented in one thousand nine eleven. This is stuff on mark schmidt. He's in charge of global sales at a german company called shot. They are the biggest makers of fancy medical class. This class is super stable And ken with stent. A higher shock resistance. And this glass is called. Borough silica glass borough silica glass doesn't shatter in ultra low temperatures invisible. Glass particles don't make their way into the vaccine. When you use borough silica glass. This is the good stuff. There are like seven main ingredients. The biggest portion of ingredients is silicon is sent actually and then we have elements like born sodium potassium calcium magnesium the sand and all those minerals. Come from all over the world. Brazil india china europe australia south america africa. Some are more specific to one region. This borhan is material. I think seventy percent of the ballroom is coming from turkey. The little mineral looks like little rock's born everything gets shipped to one of five melting plants. Where all the dry ingredients get mixed together. We have huge mixers and you heat these tanks up to over one thousand degrees and melt the sense and melt the ingredients until you have a homogeneous liquid glass melts not like water but like more more like honey. This sand melting is happening around. The clock constantly is twenty four seven we produce three hundred and sixty five days that glass because you cannot hold the tank to stop once you have heated up the tank you go you turn off the heat. You have a tankful of hard glass so you don't turn it off and from that honey lake melted sand you then form long glass tubes that then get shipped to one of sixteen cutting plants in places like argentina mexico the us switzerland germany. Indonesia china this a lot of places and here. The glass tubes get cut into vials syringes and cartridges. So it's a huge long supply chain and you have to manage all these different touch points so that nothing goes wrong. Yup stefan says shot produces around eleven billion of the roughly fifty billion borough silicate glass containers made every year including billions of vials and basically as soon as cove exploded. So did the orders for more vials. Everybody's developing a vaccine that everybody thinks they're going to be successful so what they all did and which is certainly okay normal. They all have booked capacity to buy vials. Yeah everyone who wanted to get in the race for a covid nineteen vaccine. They put in their orders for vials months ago. But they all know they will only need vials if the vaccine is successful but they also know you're not even in the race if you don't have a container to put your vaccine in seven says this has created kind of overbooking problem there are only so many vials shot can make in a year but they say not everyone is going to need vials at the exact same time. So they're hoping they'll be able to trade orders. That shot can be like listen company. D you don't have a vaccine yet. This other company does can we may be. Give them your vile order just until your vaccine is ready. Here's another way. Pharmaceutical companies have tried to avoid vile bottlenecks. They're putting the covid vaccine in multiple dose vials instead of single-dose miles. They're putting five noses in one vial. Twenty those as in one vial now. You need fewer vials and chart expects to make around five hundred to six hundred million additional vials twenty twenty one enough to support about two billion vaccine doses. Each file carrying multiple doses. No it's not a big number and and it's it's it feels small it it it gives small but still it's still. It's a stretch because you have to be able you have to have that additional capacity and you have

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