South Africa’s largest pharmaceutical company Aspen Pharmacare will release the first batch of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines on Monday.
The local manufacturer of the vaccines said they will be released from its Gqeberha manufacturing site in the Eastern Cape and will be made available through the African Union’s African Vaccination Acquisition Task Team platform.
Aspen is manufacturing 220 million doses of the Johns & Johnson vaccine for African countries, at the more than R3 billion sterile manufacturing facility. South Africa has placed an initial order for 30 million doses. Earlier this year President Cyril Ramaphosa said the doses will later be increased to 400 million. And the US has pledged $200 million to support Aspen.
The group's Gqeberha facility is Africa’s only manufacturing site that has been contracted by a global pharmaceutical company for large scale production of the vaccines. Aspen said the vaccines, which are the first to be produced on the continent, will also be made available to Europe and other overseas countries.
"Aspen is proud of the role we are playing in producing vaccines for distribution in South Africa, across Africa and the world. Our ability to produce these vaccines on behalf of Johnson & Johnson builds on our strategic vision of delivering high quality, affordable medicines that improve health outcomes for patients in our own country, continent and around the world," Aspen group CEO Stephen Saad said.
Covid-19 vaccine access inequality has been a point of concern and Saad added that supplying to Africa and the local market is "particularly rewarding".
Earlier in June Aspen had to dispose of two million vaccines it manufactured at the Gqeberha plant due to suspicions that a core component of the vaccine was contaminated in a US factory.