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Catalent to ramp up J&J vaccine production at Italian plant

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(Reuters) - Catalent is scaling up manufacturing capacity for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine at its Italian plant, addressing some concerns over the drugmaker's ability to meet vaccine supply targets in the European Union.

The contract manufacturer said on Wednesday that it was adding a new vial-filling line as part of an expanded partnership with J&J. The line is expected to be operational in the fourth quarter to support the vaccine's production through late 2022, Catalent said.

The EU approved J&J's one-shot vaccine last week and its first shipments are set to begin in the second half of April. J&J has agreed to provide the EU with at least 200 million doses this year.

An EU official told Reuters in March that J&J had flagged possible supply issues, which could affect its plans to deliver 55 million vaccine doses to the bloc in the second quarter of the year.

The EU is grappling with a slow roll out of its vaccination program due to delivery delays from Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca Plc.

Catalent's Bloomington, Indiana facility currently provides manufacturing and packaging services for J&J's vaccine in the United States.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)