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Emergent BioSolutions officials answer for vaccine production issue in Senate hearing

Posted at 8:02 AM, May 20, 2021

The Baltimore company behind producing the one-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine found themselves in front of a senate hearing for its production problems on Wednesday and, despite not being able to fulfill their contract to the federal government, Emergent BioSolution's executives still feel that they deserve to be rewarded with bonuses.

Despite a number of quality control issues, Emergent won a $628 million contract from the Trump Administration in June 2020 to produce the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

The House Select Committee on the coronavirus started investigating Emergent last month after the company acknowledged what FDA investigators called "serious deficiencies" in its manufacturing.

Those deficiencies caused about 15 million doses worth of COVID-19 vaccine ingredients to be compromised and thrown away because of cross-contamination.

The house committee said Emergent charged the government $27 million per month in reservation fees to maintain its "readiness" to manufacture ingredients for the vaccine. So far, the government has paid $271 million dollars of the contract, but partially stopped payments after learning of the contamination issue at the Baltimore plant.

California Congresswoman Maxine Waters had a very important question for Emergent BioSolution's CEO, Robert Kramer.

"Why would we continue to deal with a company that has violated the contract in so many ways?," she asked. "They should be trying to prevent themselves from being sued, or being jailed, for what they have done."

"I don't agree that it was a failure. Our company's work, in this case, Mr.Kirk's work was extraordinary," said Kramer. "The amount of work that was accomplished, the progress that was made to advance these two candidates into manufacturing developments and get them in a state of readiness to be prepared to respond to the pandemic, was incredible."

Congress also questioned Kramer about his stock sales and their suspicious timing in relation to the company's contamination issues. Those stock sales came just before the news broke about Emergent's production problems, which caused the company's stock to drop.

Kramer, however, says those transactions were scheduled before these problems came up.