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What makes vaccine glass so special and hard to come by?

adammil1

New member
I was wondering if we have any glass experts out there in this site who could provide a better understanding of glass for me?

A lot of articles out there seem to indicate that it could be more challenging to make billions of vaccine vials than it actually would be to actually make billions of doses of vaccine.

Unfortunately most of these same articles are very short on technical details. So I was wondering if anyone here knows anything about glass and what makes borosilicate glass so special for the application? I have even seen articles that said even the sand itself used to make it is in short supply. What is so special about the sand that makes is so hard to come by for the application?

I get that the glass needs to handle temperature swings of close to freezing all the way up to room temperature, and be sterile but aren't there other high end common glasses that can handle temperature swings like Pyrex for example? One other thing unique to the current situation is I doubt the glass used for the first wave will need to maintain a vaccine for a long shelf life. Unlike a flu vaccine that i could see sitting around at a pharmacy for a few weeks/months somehow I suspect in the first wave the demand will be so high that most of this stuff will likely be used within days of leaving the filling line. I suppose maybe if they make and bottle a lot of it before the FDA approval maybe it could be sitting on pallets for a while, but then again maybe if lower grades of glass have shorter shelf life you could start using then after the approval of the vaccine when the stuff is leaving ther fill plant and headed straight out for distribution.

I realize tooling up to make billions of anything is a huge undertaking but why do all the articles stress the glass being the weakest link and not even the making of billions of syringes?

I wonder how many glass vials are used each year world wide for the flu season alone? Interestingly enough rather than asking that we hold off a few months on the flu vaccine to save vials for a Covid19 vaccine which even Faucci is saying could come at the end of the year the experts are all telling us to get the flu vaccine this fall to help keep the hospitals empty to fight Covid19. Is borosilicate at least recyclable so it isn't a total loss for the system? I wonder if the vials can be sterilized allowing for multiple uses.

Motionguru If you are reading this I thought glass bottle making machinery was a huge part of your business, you guys seeing the mad rush from all of this?
 

JST

Moderator
Point of information.....

Pyrex (same as "fire King") glass IS borosilicate glass. Or at least it was, these days that stuff is expensive, and there are lots of "substitutes".
 

CalG

Active member
A big issue might be that Schott (Maker of BK-7, a popular borosilicate glass) sent most production to Asia years ago.

Tubular glass is a specialty manufacture process and may not be readily scalable. One would think that the "test tube" and pipet makers would have the answer.

There are few deposits of high purity sand in the world. One is in Tenn. IIRC Some where around there any way. Short supply may be true.
 

CalG

Active member
Point of information.....

Pyrex (same as "fire King") glass IS borosilicate glass. Or at least it was, these days that stuff is expensive, and there are lots of "substitutes".

Pyrex is Corning 7913 fused silica...

Somewhat different than boro....
 

cvairwerks

New member
It's not the vials that are the problem, but Schott refusing to sign guarantee contracts with drug companies. Their reasoning is that since no one has a C19 vaccine yet, they are not going to reserve material stocks for any company. Because they can't get guaranteed material contracts, some of these companies are starting to panic.
 

thermite

Active member
It's not the vials that are the problem, but Schott refusing to sign guarantee contracts with drug companies. Their reasoning is that since no one has a C19 vaccine yet, they are not going to reserve material stocks for any company. Because they can't get guaranteed material contracts, some of these companies are starting to panic.

The Pharma co's are being obtuse, mostly. Not wise to gamble, no.

DUMB to to expect that - in a pandemic most of all - Schott should be the one to gamble in their stead.

Schott's industry, the margins are waaay skinnier than Big Corp Pharma.

Example:

The greatest percentage of the thermally-stable rod and tube applications have ALWAYS been in the chemical process and speciality engineering product fields, pharma only part of that.

Whom does NOT have a Pyrex, Shott (or competitor) product in their kitchen, auto, or Halogen lamps?

Roll-back 70 or so years. An Uncle to whom glass working was beloved grew frustrated at the cost of Pyrex rod & tube for his lamp-glass working. Floral, dancers, birds and animal figurines, Knott's Berry Farm, plus-plus - trying to sell-on to encourage other artists, "West coast" meaning Canada to South America.

"Distributors" were buying in ten case lots, charging part-case assortments at one case prices, calling it a "discount".

Harold contacts Corning, asks whose ass he needs to kiss and in what quantity to get their BEST unit price. Absolute. Not Relative.

One railway BOXCAR load, mixed, and 58,000 US$, minimum at each go.

"Well here's the mix, just raise the invoice, I'll prepay it."

More than just the one of those a year was the start of his becoming Corning's largest distributor West of the Mississippi. And remaining so. For long years.

These folks want "guarantees?"

Take the risk they might have to sell-onward at a loss if they lose, pony-up the cash.

Warehouse the goods themselves.

As with many things, it is a MONEY issue about "risk management". That is not a "technical" issue.

Shott is in the production biz. Not inch-hoorance, casino gambling, nor Lawster feuding games.

FIRM order, money back of it? You'll get your glass when you get it. "CCF"

Schott has bills to pay TOO!
 

Mark Rand

Active member
Pyrex is Corning 7913 fused silica...

Somewhat different than boro....


In the US, it's tempered soda-lime glass. In Europe it's borosilicate. Wikipedia article.

Borosiilicate glass has a low coefficient of thermal expansion, so doesn't shatter when heated. Tempered soda lime has higher impact resistance so doesn't shatter when dropped. Neither is as good as the other in the opposite circumstance. (does that last sentence even make sense? :rolleyes5:)
 

thermite

Active member
In the US, it's tempered soda-lime glass. In Europe it's borosilicate. Wikipedia article.

Borosiilicate glass has a low coefficient of thermal expansion, so doesn't shatter when heated. Tempered soda lime has higher impact resistance so doesn't shatter when dropped. Neither is as good as the other in the opposite circumstance. (does that last sentence even make sense? :rolleyes5:)

Actually, it does. Make sense. Not a lot of mystery to it. Lots of curious folks have discussed it before we entered this room.

"Old" Pyrex was fused silica. So some of my transparent cookware was my late Mother's. "Corning ware" specialty ceramic - my recollection more than one kind? ISTR I also still have two of their amber-clear "Visions" line as well, also not the same as others.

The Anchor-Hocking storage containers rely on tempering, work OK fridge to microwave or oven. Just not stovetop.

More than one way to skin a cat, all of them unwelcome TO said cat, but still..

The REAL eye-openers are my Wife & M'in law' ancient Chinese style stovetop ceramics. Happy and blinding-durable on a roaring gas burner, off the application of technology already thousands of years old.

They didn't HAVE to "have the math", nor even "the physics" to observe that certain clays "just worked out that way" and were well-worth duplicating.

Lots of that pragmatism around, "ancient world" to modern times.

:D
 

jz79

Member
this seems some sort of market manipulation, not a real problem

make larger bottles if you really have a problem and want to solve it, it is not a 1:1 ratio glass used and volume the bottle will contain when you scale the bottle up, more like 1:2

that is IF the glass is actually needed and absolutely nothing else works, which would be quite odd...
 

thermite

Active member
this seems some sort of market manipulation, not a real problem

make larger bottles if you really have a problem and want to solve it, it is not a 1:1 ratio glass used and volume the bottle will contain when you scale the bottle up, more like 1:2

that is IF the glass is actually needed and absolutely nothing else works, which would be quite odd...

Not odd. Stipulated, rather.

You have to look at the "no human hands involved" mass production CNC handling.

That part demands strong, highly uniform, and "to the standards, please" goods. And it has stunning-high unit-count needs given need of potentially BILLIONS of doses and more than one vessel needed per-each before they are final.

Schott - and others- can DO it. Not all doses will ship on "Day One", after all.

But they cannot afford to GAMBLE on "with whom" as will be PAYING for that. One or more governments could see fit to nationalize their ass, ever they get it wrong enough.
 

gbent

Active member
Single use vials. After the needle pierces the seal the vial is no longer sterile. It also makes it easier to get wide distribution of an individual vaccine batch. That way neighbors can't compare notes when a batch goes bad and there are side effects.
 

adammil1

New member
During the N95 shortage I know the taskforce went to the 3M plant in Minnesota where they make N95 industrial use masks and asked them what the difference was between those and medical use N95's. They quickly found it was more of a paperwork thing. I believe Congress had to put in place liability protections and as soon as that occurred overnight millions more masks appeared in the hospitals.

It makes me wonder are there other companies in the industrial glass working industries (maybe a test tube maker) who could retool a line and make something almost as good that would work in a time of crisis?
 

thermite

Active member
Single use vials. After the needle pierces the seal the vial is no longer sterile. It also makes it easier to get wide distribution of an individual vaccine batch. That way neighbors can't compare notes when a batch goes bad and there are side effects.

Go and watch some videos. There are plenty.

A sealed vial comes LAST. There is a ton of work that must be done ahead of that. Nearly all of it automated handling, and OPEN tubes mostly.

Their ENVIRONMENT is what is "sealed".
 

jz79

Member
Single use vials. After the needle pierces the seal the vial is no longer sterile. It also makes it easier to get wide distribution of an individual vaccine batch. That way neighbors can't compare notes when a batch goes bad and there are side effects.

you're thinking of something else, this is aprox 30ml bottle with rubber cork, aluminum ring holds the rubber cork in, you take a sterile syringe, push the needle through the rubber and draw some liquid, take next sterile syringe and repeat till the bottle is empty, used needle never enters the rubber/bottle, zero chance of contamination basically

and the thing is - it is going to take a while to get everyone vaccinated, so you simply gather the bottles, return them to the company that bottles the vaccine and they can wash, sterilize and refill them, the same line should sterilize even new bottles, so there is not a lot of work involved into reusing these bottles, and glassware and other multiple use instruments are reused every day in research and hospitals anyway, it would a complete nonsense to not reuse these IF the raw material issue is actually real

again - I'm 99,99% convinced this is some misinterpretation of something that was told by media, just to keep the fear going

and of course someone may invent some reasons why this particular vaccine somehow needs one time use glass bottle made from a dwindling supply of sand, greed knows no bounds with this thing, just look back and how they tried to fudge the research data regarding the effectiveness of cheap drugs to fight this thing - that was clearly NOT done by the media, and media utterly failed to do some actual investigative journalism and find out who was behind this and why
 

Mebfab

Moderator
That was clearly NOT done by the media, and media utterly failed to do some actual investigative journalism and find out who was behind this and why

I am not trying to stir the pot, but I am pretty sure TV journalists have forgotten how to investigate. Some of the newspapers seem able to do it sometimes but nobody reads them anymore.

Honestly when Stephen Colbert does far and away the best interview of John Bolton the media needs to do some self examination
 

DDoug

Active member
What ever happened to the "No needle vaccination gun"....makes me cringe just thinking of it....:ack2:
 

thermite

Active member
That was clearly NOT done by the media, and media utterly failed to do some actual investigative journalism and find out who was behind this and why

I am not trying to stir the pot, but I am pretty sure TV journalists have forgotten how to investigate. Some of the newspapers seem able to do it sometimes but nobody reads them anymore.

Honestly when Stephen Colbert does far and away the best interview of John Bolton the media needs to do some self examination

Don't hold yer breath. They are not "Journalists". They are entertainers!

Research of FACTS gets in the way of low-effort sensationalism "at once" not after some OTHER hoor has already shown her snatch is clever enough to have catched sumthin' interesting - shallower, meaner, nastier, further from reality and more trivial the better.

Where is the source of that?

Why "we" are! The eager spineless mindless and lazy CONSUMER'S of instant-gratification "cheap shots", the more malicious - and more rapidly spread - the better, of course! Tell any lie. Fear not retractions. Dont even BOTHER. Lazy readership has moved-on to the NEXT lie, already, could not care less.

All "the media" are doing is "running what they got" as to keeping legions of self-imposed IDIOTS fired-up!

When did quality journalism began to die?

When quality READERSHIP went off to do something less like "work" then forgot to return, is when.
 

jim rozen

Active member
What ever happened to the "No needle vaccination gun"....makes me cringe just thinking of it....:ack2:

Those are amazing. When I was in high school (73-77) it was apparent there was failed immunity from something the area had been vaccinated
with originally - I forget if it was mumps, or measles. There was a serious outbreak and the NJ dept of health came in and vaccinated the entire
school, 2000 kids or so, in one morning. They had us line up in lines in the gym, at the head of the lines were ten or so teams each with
the injector guns.

You did not wait on line - you practically had to run to keep up, the line was moving that fast. You could hear the air compressors working to keep up.
Did not hurt at all. But when when you're 16, you're basically superman.
 

thermite

Active member
Those are amazing. When I was in high school (73-77) it was apparent there was failed immunity from something the area had been vaccinated
with originally - I forget if it was mumps, or measles. There was a serious outbreak and the NJ dept of health came in and vaccinated the entire
school, 2000 kids or so, in one morning. They had us line up in lines in the gym, at the head of the lines were ten or so teams each with
the injector guns.

You did not wait on line - you practically had to run to keep up, the line was moving that fast. You could hear the air compressors working to keep up.
Did not hurt at all. But when when you're 16, you're basically superman.

Armed forces were MAJOR user, 'nam war era. Jouk or flinch badly, not have proper angle and pressure as to contact? The buggers could slice yah pretty badly.

Some shots DID hurt like Hell. Different settings to drive different vaccines into where they had to get to in the tissue.

20 different vaccines, original and nine boosters for EACH on my GI shot record. already had a dozen as an Army brat and such, before all that started. Jonas Salk showing up at my 4th grade school in-person. Mind, he was U Pgh based for the whole Polio project, we were just part of his initial trial, so it wasn't unusual.
Got Sabin vaccine four times, later on, plus ten more, DoD.

Two hundred goes, GI alone, not ALL of them the gun. And then I added more-yet, "tropical diseases" especially, when I went a gallivanting 51 odd countries AFTER the war.

Per CDC, recent years?

Five of those vaccines a Combat Engineer needed to work in real, not named-as, sewers, still do not exist, yet today, and "officially" never had existed.

Among other things that oath to "defend and uphold.." - the proverbial "blank check for any amount, up to and including my life" carries with it.. for the rest of your life, not "just" active duty?

The US Gov had multiple millions of "test subjects" for trials of vaccines.

And some few among us DID die of them, every damn cycle. Bubonic plague vaccine a fair reliable killer.

You does yer best.. then rolls the dice and hopes for the best.

I haven't bothered to keep up, but if the DoD HAS "kept up" fifty-sixty years on and with all the advances in immunology as have been enjoyed?

Present-day members of the Armed forces should have somewhere between forty and a hundred vaccines on their shot-records?

Or someone has gone far too damned complacent about an ever-hostile world.

Upside to it, of course is that bugs as bite we millions of GI guinea pigs?

Mostly just die.

I'm good with that.
 

jim rozen

Active member
"Pyrex" btw is a brand marketing tool these days. Same as kleenex or xerox. No way to know what the bowl/cup/pan/dish is made of for sure.
 








 
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