(Reuters) – U.S. drugmaker Pfizer Inc has signed a long-term agreement with glass maker Corning Inc to procure vials for storing drugs, the companies said on Thursday.

Pfizer said the glass vials will be used for some of its existing sterile injectable medicines and that they were also being assessed for storing a range of new products. The company did not provide details of these new products.

Pfizer, like rivals Merck & Co and AstraZeneca, is racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, which does not yet have an approved vaccine or treatment.

With vaccines being seen by world leaders as a way to restart stalled economies, drugmakers are looking to scale up their production to meet surging global demand.

Some companies such as AstraZeneca have flagged potential supply shortages of glass vials, which could pose a challenge to scaling up production of COVID-19 vaccines that are expected to need billions of vials.

It would be essential to fill a vial with five to 10 doses of the vaccines to cope with the requirement of huge volumes of vaccines and the relative shortage of vials, Johnson & Johnson’s Chief Scientific Officer Paul Stoffels said on Thursday.

Johnson & Johnson also has a potential COVID-19 vaccine under development which it plans to test in humans by September.

(Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla and Manas Mishra in Bengaluru; Editing by Shinjini Ganguli)

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