Recently, a voice on the Internet said that “China can make vaccines but cannot make vaccine bottles. All domestic vaccines use imported bottles.” Is it true that the small vaccine bottle has been “stuck”? The production requirements for vaccine bottles are indeed very high. According to international standards, the containers used for vaccines must be “a type of medium borosilicate medicine glass bottles.” If the standard is not met, the components precipitated in the glass will affect the vaccine’s efficacy. However, the difficulty does not mean that we cannot make it!
What exactly is lacking in vaccine vials？
Zhang Wenhong once publicly stated that mass production of bottles containing the new crown vaccine is not much more accessible than producing the vaccine itself. First of all, there must be enough glass and enough manufacturers. Many vaccine manufacturers and professionals have already realized the problem of vaccine bottle production mentioned by Zhang Wenhong. Before this, Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft in the United States, also reminded that “even vaccine bottles and potting equipment do not have enough reserves in the world”.
The Pacific Securities Pharmaceutical team stated in a research report that if the new crown vaccine bottles are mainly medium borosilicate controlled glass bottles, the global new crown vaccine penetration rate is 20%-70%. Each person is injected 1-3 times. The new crown vaccine’s corresponding glass bottle market space is 1.5 billion-16 billion.
According to Tao Lina, a Chinese vaccine expert, three containers are generally used to store vaccines: ampoules, vials, and prefilled syringes. Many people who have participated in China’s emergency vaccination told reporters that the domestically-made new crown vaccines they vaccinate are all prefilled syringes, that is, syringes that have completed the filling of the vaccine. It is also understood that some vaccines currently produced by Kexing are also stored in vials.
Although it can be stored in different containers, the main reason for the tight supply of vaccine bottles is the limited output of glass used to make the bottles. Tao Linna said that due to public health, glass bottles containing vaccines must generally have the characteristics of low-temperature resistance, high quality, and high stability. This also determines that medical glass must also be used for vaccine packaging. As for the production of medical glass, whether it is the acquisition of raw materials, the intermediate processing, and the final transportation and storage, the cost is higher than that of ordinary glass, and the process requirements are more stringent.
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Compared with high borosilicate glass and low borosilicate glass, the main difference between medium borosilicate glass and the former lies in the different water resistance caused by different sodium content. Medium borosilicate glass, high borosilicate glass can be used for microwave heating, low borosilicate glass is commonly used in cosmetic packaging, and medium borosilicate glass bottle, as a common material for pharmaceutical packaging materials, has a better stability. At the same time, the smaller the amount of alkali precipitated in the glass, the higher the water-resistance level, and the smaller the impact on water-based drugs.
The leading manufacturers of medium borosilicate glass tubes worldwide include German SCHOTT, American Corning, and other companies. However, because of the market’s demand for more production capacity, coupled with China’s attention to medium borosilicate glass tubes, it is estimated that in the third quarter of 2021, the annual output of glass tubes will be 20,000 tons, and the products will be supplied to the global pharmaceutical packaging market.
Coincidentally, SCHOTT Group has also built a medium borosilicate glass tube production base in Jinyun, Zhejiang, China, in the past two years. According to the information provided by the group, the first-phase production capacity of SCHOTT’s new plant is expected to reach 20,000 tons.
Cangzhou Four Star Glass Co., Ltd., as the world’s fourth and China’s first company to master the technology of mass production of medicinal borosilicate glass, has provided 500 million vaccine vials for the fight against the epidemic. On October 5, 2021, as the No. 5 borosilicate glass furnace is ignited and put into production, the four-star expansion is scheduled while production is scheduled. The production capacity of 3 billion pieces is expected to be achieved by the end of the year.
Perseverance is needed to strengthen the industry
On the one hand, the quality of medicines needs to be upgraded, and on the other hand, it is also necessary to upgrade the packaging materials of medicines; policies such as consistency evaluation will also promote the integration of Chinese pharmaceutical packaging with international standards, and the continuous expansion of the market will bring opportunities for domestic companies.
While doing the market, it is also crucial to strengthen R&D and innovation, intensify efforts to improve product quality, and continuously improve the supply chain of the industrial chain.
The industry believes that manufacturing a high-quality glass tube requires superior material technology and sophisticated production equipment, quality control system, etc., which is a consideration of the company’s comprehensive manufacturing capabilities. Therefore, with continuous R&D and innovation, and continuous improvement of the rigor of process flow, etc., China’s borosilicate glass industry will accelerate its progress towards high quality.