Afternoon Coffee: Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine doses contaminated; Avetta broadens supplier risk services offered on platform; Jobless claims rise

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Workers at a factory manufacturing two coronavirus vaccines mixed up ingredients, contaminating up to 15 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine, according to the New York Times.

The plant is run by Emergent BioSolutions, a manufacturing partner for J&J and AstraZeneca, a British-Swedish company with a vaccine not yet authorized for use in the US. Federal officials said the mistake in ingredients was a human error. It’s not expected to have impacted the AstraZeneca vaccine, the NYT reported.

The article reported that the error does not affect any J&J doses that are currently being used nationwide. Further shipments of J&J’s vaccine — a total of 24 million doses in the next month — are supposed to come from the plant in Baltimore, but these are now in question. Federal officials still expect to have enough doses of J&J and the other two major coronavirus vaccines to meet President Joe Biden’s commitment to have enough to immunize all US adults by the end of May.

Avetta broadens its supply chain risk management services

Avetta, a supply chain risk management software solution, added an intelligent supplier classification tool to its Avetta Connect platform that will enable better pairing of supplier types to safety and certification requirements for the work they do.

According to a press release announcing the addition, Avetta said it will streamline supplier onboarding while adding more service levels which can be a better fit to a broader range of suppliers.

The new addition will work by suppliers going through a registration process where they are categorized intelligently by risk level. Companies using Avetta can then configure their compliance and prequalification requirements for all supplier types. When suppliers meet specific indicators, they are mapped to the right services. Finally, suppliers are evaluated against compliance standards for local needs to ensure safe and sustainable working conditions.

“The Avetta Connect platform is unique because it manages a broad number of suppliers across a very diverse set of industries,” Taylor Allis, chief product officer of Avetta, said in the press release. “To scale the digitization of our clients’ supply chain risk management programs, we need to deliver new ways to intelligently automate the classification and management of supply chain vendors. Avetta Connect’s newest features enable clients to automatically map compliance requirements to companies based on their attributes on a global scale.”

Number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rises to 719,000

The Labor Department reported Thursday that the number of Americans applying for first-time unemployment benefits rose last week to 719,000, a sign that employers are still cutting jobs despite more businesses reopening and a faster pace of vaccinations, according to the Associated Press.

The pace of applications has dropped since earlier this year, but they remain higher than historical standards. Before the Covid pandemic disrupted the economy a year ago, jobless claims ran below 222,000 a week. Now, the four-week average of claims sits around 719,000. This number is still the fewest since mid-March 2020, just before the pandemic caused widespread layoffs, the article said.

Also, 3.8 million people continued to collect traditional state benefits. Combined with federal programs used during this health crisis, 18.2 million people were receiving some type of jobless aid in the week ending March 13. Even so, the overall economy is showing clear improvement from its collapse last spring.

“With vaccination efforts increasing seemingly by the day, hope may finally be on the horizon,” economist AnnElizabeth Konkel told the AP. “Getting the public health situation back to normal is the only way to stop coronavirus’ economic damage. A robust recovery will only be able to flourish once the virus is under control.”

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