WASHINGTON (WJZ) — Emergent BioSolutions’ executives were grilled in a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday. Lawmakers wanted answers on what went wrong at the Baltimore facility when products that would have been used for 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine became contaminated.
“I can assure you that no one is more disappointed than we are that we had to suspend our 24/7 manufacturing of new vaccines. As CEO, I take full responsibility,” said Robert Kramer, president and CEO of Emergent BioSolutions.READ MORE: ‘I’m Terrified’ At Least 20 People Shot This Week In Baltimore; Police Identify Victim of Deadly Mass Shooting
Word of the contamination at the plant came in March. Johnson & Johnson had to step in and take over, and the Food and Drug Administration initiated an investigation.
“The board’s top priority is ensuring that management takes all corrective actions required to resume production,” said Fuad El-Hibri, executive chairman of the company.
The company has had previous violations for poorly trained workers and issues with cleanliness.
“Why would we continue to deal with a company that has violated the contract in so many ways, who has a dirty facility,” said Rep. Maxine Waters of California.
Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois agreed.
“I got to tell you, Mr. Kramer, my teenage son’s room gives your facility a run for its money in terms of its cleanliness,” he said.
Democratic lawmakers also wanted to know why one employee got a hefty bonus while the company failed to deliver a single dose.READ MORE: 12-Year-Old Girl Hospitalized After Baltimore Hit & Run
“We believe in bonuses for success, but we don’t agree in bonuses for failure,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland’s eighth district.
The ruined doses shocked the world as countries were in a rush to get vaccines. The CEO said their quality control measures worked.
“Did any of the contaminated doses get out of your facility,” asked ranking member Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. “Were any put in the arms of people?”
“None of that material left our control. The production lot was quarantined, set aside and never left our facility,” Kramer said.
Both executives have committed to more hearings with lawmakers as the investigation continues.
The New York Times was first to report that workers accidentally swapped materials for the two vaccines, and by the time quality control checks caught the error, millions of doses had already been spoiled.
“It was human error. The FDA is investigating this,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a senior adviser to the President, said at the time. “All the doses that have been distributed to us – that have been administered—did not come from that plant so this is not related in any way to any of the J&J doses that people have already gotten.”
The FDA halted production at Emergent, and in early April released a report on its concerns over cross-contamination and sanitation inside the facility.MORE NEWS: America To Observe Juneteenth For The First Time As A Federal Holiday