Aspen plans to expand vaccine manufacturing for African access

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Aspen CEO Stephen Saad
Aspen CEO Stephen Saad
Lulama Zenzile

Aspen Pharmacare plans to expand its manufacturing capabilities to improve access to vaccines in Africa.

Africa’s largest pharmaceutical company is seeking assurances on technology transfers and assistance with licenses, CEO Stephen Saad said in a statement after a seminar hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The campaign is “so that Africa can lessen its reliance of being an importer of 99% of all its vaccines,” Saad said. Sub Saharan Africa has only managed to vaccinate 2% of its population against the coronavirus to date.

There are fewer than 10 vaccine manufacturers in Africa, based across South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal, according to the World Health Organization. And most of those carry out packaging and labeling rather than manufacturing.

Macron said during a visit to South Africa this week that France was in favor of lifting hurdles to allow vaccine production on the continent. France already has a partnership with South Africa’s Biovac Institute and would soon start a project with the Durban-based Aspen, according to Macron. The country supports waiving of intellectual property rights for Covid-19 vaccines, a move also supported by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Aspen has a deal with Johnson & Johnson to fill and finish its version of the Covid-19 vaccine at its 3.4 billion-rand ($240 million) plant completed last year. It also produces dexamethasone and anesthetics used to treat the virus.

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