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Employees at plant that ruined millions of J&J Covid vaccine doses failed to shower, change clothes

Employees work in a lab at Emergent Biosolutions on February 8, 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

Michael Robinson Chavez | The Washington Post | Getty Images

Some employees at the Emergent BioSolutions plant in Baltimore failed to shower or change clothes, which is required when working in the factory and likely played a role in ruining millions of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 doses, according to a memo released Wednesday by a key House committee.

Inspections of the Bayview facility conducted last year also flagged problems with mold, poor disinfection of plant equipment and inadequate training of employees, staff for the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis said in the memo. The committee is holding a hearing at 10:30 a.m. ET examining the biopharmaceutical company’s role in ruining the J&J shots.

Even though inspectors found poor conditions at the plant, top executives were awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars in bonuses last year and were praised by the company’s board for their leadership, according to other documents released by the committee.

Emergent CEO Robert Kramer received a $1.2 million bonus last year, according to one document, while three other executives received payments of more than $400,000.

The hearing comes more than a month after the Biden administration put J&J in charge of the Baltimore plant after U.S. officials learned that Emergent, a federal contractor that had been making vaccines for J&J and AstraZeneca, mixed up ingredients for the two shots.

An inspection by the Food and Drug Administration later found the plant was unsanitary and unsuitable to manufacture the shots. In a 13-page report, inspectors wrote that the facility used to manufacture the vaccine was “not maintained in a clean and sanitary condition” and was “not of suitable size, design, and location to facilitate cleaning, maintenance, and proper operations.”

FDA inspectors said paint was observed to be peeling in multiple areas and walls were damaged that could impact the plant’s “ability to adequately clean and disinfect.” They also noted that employees did not follow standard operating procedures in handling waste or vaccine manufacturing materials to ensure they weren’t contaminated.

The facility has not been authorized by the FDA to manufacture or distribute Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine, and none of the doses manufactured at this plant has been distributed for use in the United States. Emergent has agreed to pause production of materials until the issues the FDA identified are resolved.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.