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Explainer: What Is Fill-Finish?

Innovation is step one with vaccines. Then you have to get the vaccine into syringes and out the door so it can be administered.

syringe bottles without labels

Even game-changing scientific innovation has a practical side.

Yes, you can produce a life-saving vaccine to combat a global pandemic, but what about the syringes? In the industry, that’s “fill-finish.”

Fill means to fill the syringes.

Finish includes labeling, packaging and quality inspection before the vaccines leave the manufacturer.

According to the Washington Post, federal officials said “fill-finish bottlenecks” were the most important obstacle for COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers.

The United Kingdom notes the same issue. The U.K. Department of Health and Social Care cited the final stage of filling, inspecting and packing syringes as a common cause of delays throughout the biopharmaceutical industry. The process takes time and manufacturers who don’t have their own fill-finish operation – or not enough capacity – must turn to third-party fill-finish sites and wait for an open slot.

Producers of the annual influenza vaccine know this challenge well. To address it, leading flu vaccine manufacturer Seqirus recently added its own fill-finish facility in Merseyside, England, near Liverpool. Seqirus – a business of CSL – can now fill and inspect 600 syringes per minute there. The increased speed and volume strengthens the company’s ability to respond to seasonal influenza and to potential influenza pandemics in the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States.

“Bringing the fill-and-finish capability in house means we can reduce our reliance on contract manufacturing and simplify our supply chain. Allowing us to work faster to provide vaccines to the U.K. and other governments who need them,” said Nigel Hilton, Head of Manufacturing and Site Head at Liverpool. “The nearly £50 million investment in the site also benefits the local Liverpool economy with the introduction of more than 120 high-value local jobs at the site, with even more jobs opening up as we continue to grow.”