CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — According to Pfizer, the company ships 200 million units of sterile injectables that are manufactured at their Rocky Mount facility to U.S. hospitals. That’s 25 percent of the company’s supply.
A large section of the 1.4 million square-foot facility was severely damaged by Wednesday’s EF3 tornado which shut down production. This means hospitals are already looking at other options.
“So, what we’d want to know would be — do hospitals, for example, have backup plans? Can they go to alternative suppliers? Can Pfizer ramp up production at their other facilities? Will operations and other things that hospitals do need to be delayed?” said economist and supply chain expert Michael Walden.
It’s too early to know when the Rocky Mount plant will be up and running again.
“It’s not like you can rent a warehouse somewhere and just ramp up production like you could with some other supplies. These are very important products that need a great deal of care in their production because we’re dealing with the ultimately people’s lives,” Walden said.
A Wednesday evening email to CBS 17 from Pfizer representative Steven Danehy said:
“Pfizer had hoped to provide an update tonight on our efforts to address the aftermath of yesterday’s tornado touchdown at our Rocky Mount manufacturing facility. However, this process is taking longer than anticipated. For example, only a small number of people have limited access to parts of the facility due to a variety of hazards still present, which makes the assessment and inspection difficult at this time. As such, we will provide an update tomorrow, likely mid-afternoon.”
Even though Pfizer has made no public decision yet, Walden said in situations like this, manufacturers often increase production at other facilities.
“Hopefully, again, Pfizer would have some method of adding to their production running additional shifts, if you will, at their other plants or other producers. If there are other producers of these sterile injectables they could do the same thing,” Walden said.
CBS 17 has reached out to officials with the UNC, Duke and WakeMed hospital systems as well, to get a sense of if the destruction at the plant will cause any kind of shortage or delay in supplying medications and other supplies to those hospitalized across their facilities.
A statement from UNC Health’s Phil Bridges was the first to give an indication.
In full, he said, “UNC Health, as a system, utilizes a diverse supply chain network. While the tornado damage to the Pfizer facility will likely have some impact across the system, not just Nash, we are working with our vendors to maintain a stable supply of injectables, pharmaceuticals and other supplies.”
WakeMed officials said that a shortage plan has been developed while the team continues to assess resources.
In a statement from WakeMed, Kristin Kelly said, “We do expect the potential for significant impact with products and supplies manufactured and stored at the Rocky Mount plant and as Pfizer transitions production to other sites.”
“WakeMed has been in touch with Pfizer as well as Premier, our group purchasing organization, to assess the situation as we manage our supply chain and resources. We have also developed a shortage plan for relevant products to maintain supply,” she added.
Duke Health officials also responded, saying that it is too early to have a clear answer to the impacts the damages could have.
“The Pfizer plant in Nash County that suffered tornado damage is a supplier of anesthesia and sterile injectable medications,” the Duke Health statement said.
“Our teams are skilled at assessing supply chains and adjusting operations when needed, but it is still too early to tell which DUHS products, if any, come from this plant and the impact that it might have at our sites.”