VILNIUS – Lithuanian companies are capable of producing not only COVID-19 vaccine components, but also vaccines, European Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton said in Vilnius on Monday.
"It's not for me to recommend to the companies their strategy. But [after] visiting the factory, interacting with the management, visiting production lines, I'm really impressed with the quality of the key components that are needed for mRNA [vaccines]," Breton said after visiting Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics and other companies that have ambitions to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Of course, it's not my decision. But if you are asking me, if I believe that the team which is managing this facility [...] have the ability to go further and to manufacture the vaccine. My answer after visiting them this morning would be yes," he said.
The commissioner said he had assured Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte that Lithuania would be part of the EU's autonomous vaccine supply chain.
In Vilnius, Breton also met with several passengers of Ryanair's Athens-to-Vilnius flight that was forced to land in Minsk on May 23 in what the commissioner described as "a hijacking of the European values".
"We are European, but today we all feel Lithuanian. We are part of that. It has been a hijacking of European values. And this will not be tolerated," he told the news conference.
Lithuanian biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies are already supplying components to vaccine developers around the world. Some of them are planning to expand production capacity.
In early May, Economy and Innovation Minister Ausrine Armonaite discussed possibilities to produce COVID-19 vaccines in Lithuania with Vladas Algirdas Bumelis, board chairman at Northway Biotech.
Bumelis said the company could start producing the active substance of vaccines in a year, at the earliest, after concluding contracts with vaccine manufacturers.
Northway Biotech could produce the active substance for the AstraZeneca and Novavax vaccines, according to Bumelis.
Currently, Vilnius-based Thermo Fisher Scientific Baltics manufactures components used in the production of coronavirus vaccines.