Swiss government recruits 75 workers to help Lonza make Moderna COVID shots

ZURICH, May 19 (Reuters) - The Swiss government said on Wednesday it has recruited 75 people to staff facilities at contract drugmaker Lonza, which has been struggling to find qualified personnel to make ingredients for the COVID-19 vaccine from Moderna.

In April, Lonza contacted the government for help in finding workers as it sought about 100 more people for its operations in Visp, Switzerland, where it has built three new production lines since last year to make the Moderna shots.

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset said about 15 of the staff identified by the government for the Lonza assignment in Visp could start this month.

“We started a programme immediately to find specialists,” Berset told a news conference in Bern. “We’ve found 75 people in the federal administration, also in the universities.”

Concerns over Lonza’s ability to deliver on schedule emerged in April, when Moderna flagged second-quarter shortfalls in shots for countries including Britain and Canada and cited an uneven production ramp-up. It also reassured Switzerland and Europe that their second-quarter deliveries were still on track.

Even more workers will soon be needed in Visp, as Lonza plans to double Swiss production capacity for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine next year. Lonza did not immediately comment on Berset’s announcement. (Reporting by John Miller and Michael Shields; Editing by Alex Richardson)