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Johnson & Johnson Slips After Vaccine Batch Hit by Production Mix-Up

Johnson & Johnson says it remains on pace to deliver 100 million vaccine doses by the end of May following a reported mix-up in production at Emergent Biosolutions.

Johnson & Johnson  (JNJ) - Get Johnson & Johnson Report shares traded lower Thursday after it intercepted a batch of drug substance that would have formed part of its coronavirus vaccine production, with reports suggesting as many as 15 million doses may have been affected. 

The New York Times cited the 15 million figure, adding that workers at Emergent Biosolutions  (EBS) - Get Emergent Biosolutions Inc. Report, one of Johnson & Johnson's supply-chain partners, erroneously used ingredients used in the vaccine developed by rival drugmaker AstraZeneca  (AZN) - Get AstraZeneca PLC Report

Johnson & Johnson would only say that its quality control process meant that the spoiled batch "was never advanced to the filling and finishing stages of our manufacturing process", and reiterated its commitment to delivering 100 million single-shot vaccine doses to the U.S. government by the end of May.

"As with the manufacturing of any complex biologic medication or vaccine, the start-up for a new process includes test runs and quality checks to ensure manufacturing is validated and the end product meets our high-quality standards," Johnson & Johnson said in a statement. "This approach includes having dedicated specialists on the ground at the companies that are part of our global manufacturing network to support safety and quality."

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Johnson & Johnson shares were marked 1.2% lower in early trading Thursday to change hands at $162.40 each, a move that would trim the stock's year-to-date gain to around 3.5%.

Emergent BioSolutions shares, meanwhile, slumped 13.1% to  $80.75 each, wiping out all of the stock's year-to-date gains. 

CDC Wednesday showed that more than 150 million Americans have received at least one dose of either the Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Reportor Moderna  (MRNA) - Get Moderna Inc. Report vaccines, with around 54.6 million people -- the majority of them over 65 -- now considered fully vaccinated. 

Johnson & Johnson's vaccine -- which was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration last month -- is helping to accelerate that pace, as it's a singe-shot regime that requires standard refrigeration temperatures, compared to the ultra-cold conditions required for Pfizer and Moderna's two-shot doses.