- The World Bank and a trio of western government agencies announced a financing package for production of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine in South Africa.
- The deal will support Aspen Pharmacare in producing 500 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson shots through 2022.
- Of that amount, 30 million will be produced for use in South Africa in 2021, out of a total of 250 million due by the end of the year.
The World Bank and a trio of western government agencies announced a financing package for production of the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine in South Africa, part of an effort to scale global production and meet demand for billions of doses.
The $712 million (~R10.2 billion) deal, announced Wednesday, will support Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. in producing 500 million doses of the shots through 2022. Of that amount, 30 million will be produced for use in South Africa in 2021, out of a total of 250 million due by the end of the year.
The deal builds on an existing licence between Aspen and J&J and includes no new intellectual property agreement, US officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the deal. It's aimed at building up production of vaccines outside a handful of countries as part of the overall effort to make billions of shots needed to quell the pandemic, they said.
J&J will provide the drug substance, which is the main ingredient, and Aspen - which is based in the South African port city of Durban - will conduct the fill-finish process, or the last stage in production, the officials said.
The funding comes from the International Finance Corp., which is affiliated with the World Bank, and three development agencies: the US International Development Finance Corp., or DFC, Germany's DEG and France's Proparco SA. The US portion is 100 million euros and comes from the DFC's core budget.
"I think this is hugely important," said Gayle Smith, who is coordinating the US State Department's global vaccine strategy. "In the short term, it means greater availability of vaccine supply, produced in Africa for Africa. And I think in the medium-long term, it also means increased capacity for the continent to produce other types of vaccines."
The DFC had previously announced a deal to support the expansion of production at Biological E Ltd., an Indian vaccine manufacturer. Further announcements are in development beyond India and South Africa, one official said. The vast majority of the doses are expected to be provided to the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust and distributed from there, the officials said. The AVAT already has a deal with J&J to purchase as many as 400 million doses by the end of 2022.
"This investment will save lives," David Marchick, chief operating officer of the DFC, said. "There's a huge supply and demand imbalance and this helps solve one of those problems."
It wasn't immediately clear whether any of the 500 million doses were new, on top of existing orders in the region, or whether they represent a guarantee of availability for existing orders.
US President Joe Biden has shifted to exporting doses after the country gobbled up the first hundreds of millions of shots produced on its soil -- fuelling an inequity between nations with major vaccine production and those without.
Biden has pledged to donate and ship 80 million doses by the end of next month, while ordering an additional 500 million Pfizer Inc. doses for shipment beginning in August and running through 2022. The administration has suggested further donations could be imminent. Manufacturers, including Pfizer and Moderna Inc., have also begun exporting from US facilities directly, after initially using those plants solely for US government orders.
- With assistance from Antony Sguazzin.