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

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Aspen Pharmacare will supply the first batch of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine to the country from July 26, said the drugmaker 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, said Aspen.

South Africa’s vaccination drive suffered a major setback in April after US Federal Drug Administration halted production of J&J vaccines at a plant in Baltimore run by Emergent Biosolutions after it was found to be contaminated.

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

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

Africa depending 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’s administered just 60 million vaccine doses in a population of 1.3 billion due to restrictions on shipments from vaccine producing nations.

South Africa’s Biovac Institute struck a deal with Pfizer last week for a “fill and finish” arrangement to produce 100 million vaccines by 2022-23.

“Supply for Africa and South Africa is particularly rewarding, given the current global inequality in accessing vaccines,” Stephen Saad, the Aspen chief executive said. ”This represents a big step forward in ensuring that Africa can address its health-care priorities.“

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