Aspen is in talks with African leaders about how to raise demand for Covid-19 vaccines after the continent’s biggest drugmaker warned a lack of orders may force it to stop making the shots.
Discussions are "underway and I assure you it’s been elevated to the highest level on the continent," John Nkengasong, director of Africa CDC, said at a briefing on Thursday. "I’m sure more details will be provided in coming days, once we have more details from Africa’s political leadership."
Nkengasong last week appealed to African countries to place orders with local manufacturers including Durban, South Africa-based Aspen, which makes doses on behalf of Johnson & Johnson and in March said it agreed to make the shots under its own brand.
Since then, Aspen has been contacted by the vaccine alliance Gavi and Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative supplying low-to-middle-income countries, Nkengasong said.
"To regionalise vaccine manufacturing in Africa is an important tool to guarantee our collective security globally," he said.
While reported Covid cases in Africa dropped slightly in the last week, Nkengasong urged countries to test more. The coronavirus test positivity rate is high, with about 11% of those tested for the virus found to be infected, he said.