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Aspen to start J&J Covid-19 vaccine supplies to SA from Monday

The vaccines manufactured in SA will also be distributed to other African countries. Stock photo.
The vaccines manufactured in SA will also be distributed to other African countries. Stock photo.
Image: Dado Ruvic

SA’s Aspen Pharmacare will supply the first batch of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) Covid-19 vaccines to the country from July 26, the drugmaker said on Monday.

It will be the first set of vaccines to be manufactured in the country from active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) — substances used to make the final drug product — sourced from Europe, Aspen said.

The country’s vaccination drive suffered a major setback in April after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted production of J&J vaccines at a plant in Baltimore run by Emergent Biosolutions Inc after it was found to be contaminated.

Aspen, which has been contracted by J&J to manufacture the vaccines in SA in a process called “fill and finish”, had been sourcing APIs from the Baltimore plant and was asked to destroy to million doses as part of the finding of the FDA.

The supplies will also be distributed to other African countries under the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team through which J&J has committed to supply 220-million doses of the single shot vaccine, Aspen said.

Africa’s dependence on imports of Covid-19 vaccine has left it vulnerable to repeated waves of the coronavirus, raising demands for vaccine production facilities in the continent.

It has administered 60-million vaccine doses in a population of 1.3-billion due to restrictions on shipments from nations producing vaccines.

SA’s Biovac Institute struck a deal with Pfizer last week for a fill and finish arrangement to produce 100-million vaccines by 2022-2023.

“Supply for Africa and SA is particularly rewarding, given the global inequality in accessing vaccines,” said Aspen CEO Stephen Saad.

“This represents a big step forward in ensuring Africa can address its healthcare priorities.”


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