ZURICH, April 27 (Reuters) - Drugmaker Lonza Group,
under pressure to find workers to help speed production of
Moderna Inc's COVID-19 vaccine, is recruiting temporary
employees from food giant Nestle to staff Swiss plants
making ingredients for the shot, state broadcaster RTS said on
Tuesday, citing sources.
Moderna last week blamed projected second-quarter delays in
shipments of its vaccine to countries including Britain and
Canada on production bottlenecks. Switzerland's
Lonza is the key supplier of ingredients needed to produce the
messenger RNA vaccine.
Lonza, which has declined to comment on any delays,
previously said three new production lines slated to produce
Moderna vaccine in Visp, Switzerland, could take months to reach
Now, the French-language Swiss broadcaster said Nestle
employees have been enlisted after the intervention of the Swiss
government to help fill vacancies.
A call for "volunteers" via Bern came a week ago to Nestle
research center employees in western Switzerland who had until
Monday to step forward for a three-month Lonza mission,
according to the broadcaster.
Moderna Chief Executive Stephane Bancel said last week that
he was confident Lonza would fill staffing gaps soon.
Last year, Lonza Chairman Albert Baehny cited finding
suitable workers - each of the new production lines requires
60-70 employees - as a challenge that could slow the project.
A Nestle spokesman provided no specifics, RTS reported,
saying only that it wanted to play "an active role in global
Lonza did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Nestle also did not comment.
Last week, Canada said 1 million to 2 million Moderna doses
of the 12.3 million doses slated for second-quarter delivery
would be delayed until after July.
Lonza, which also supplies Moderna's U.S.-bound COVID-19
vaccine from facilities in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, makes
ingredients in Visp before they are trucked to Spain to be
bottled by Spanish contract drug manufacturer Rovi.
This month, Rovi's role was expanded beyond bottling, to
include a vaccine ingredients production line due to be
operational this year.
Moderna aims to make at least 700 million doses in 2021.
(Reporting by John Miller; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Richard