The Pfizer jab is now starting to arrive weekly to help improve Australia’s lagging rollout.
But globally, only a handful of labs produce it, because of the difficult and delicate science that goes into developing an mRNA vaccine.
Find out more about the BioNTech lab in the exclusive video above
A lab in the medieval city of Marburg, north of Frankfurt in Germany, produces 40 million doses a week – the same number Australia will receive this year.
There, it’s called the BioNTech vaccine, because BioNTech is the homegrown German company that partnered with the US pharmaceutical giant to develop the jab.
Marburg’s Lord Mayor, Thomas Spies, said developing the vaccine has been “a big responsibility.”
“The technique, you can’t just produce that anywhere,” he said.
“It’s not a question of the site, but of the people who work there.”
BioNTech employee Joshua Hagen said the work required a lot of focus, but he feels “proud” to be working on such an important project.
The manufacturing plant in Marburg has a workforce of around 500 people.
They’re working around the clock, with the goal of producing a billion doses of the vaccine per year to be sent and administered around the world.
The lab is populated by a team of qualified locals, each with a unique role in a vaccine-building process of 50,000 steps.
The first of those steps is the production of the active ingredient, mRNA, or messenger RNA (ribonucleic acid).
One 50-litre tank makes eight million doses in one batch.
Quality control is paramount.
Workers wear layers of protection that are sanitised repeatedly, and everything they do and touch is documented.
A refrigerated room stores the end result.
Inside the lab’s containers are about 2.4 million doses of pure mRNA ready to be made into more vaccines and shipped out.
Marburg’s Lord Mayor is also an emergency doctor, and he says he is happy to be sharing the vaccines with countries such as Australia – as long as people are willing to get it.
“In highly developed countries people have more questions about the vaccination,” he said.
“In Africa, people are totally happy if they ever get one (vaccine), because they’ve know all those diseases against which we are all vaccinated now, for decades.”