US government pumps $200m into Aspen vaccine plant in Gqeberha

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President Cyril Ramaphosa (right) pictured during a visit at Aspen's lab in March.
President Cyril Ramaphosa (right) pictured during a visit at Aspen's lab in March.
Gallo Images/Die Burger/Lulama Zenzile
  • The US government is pumping millions into the Aspen Pharmaceutical plant in Gqeberha, saying it will save lives.
  • Premier Oscar Mabuyane said the huge investment wwould go a long way in creating jobs for young people across the country.
  • The Aspen plant is currently busy with the production of 220 million doses of J&J vaccines for Africa.

The US government will pump $200 million dollars into the Aspen Pharmaceutical plant in Gqeberha to expand its Johnson & Johnson vaccine production for Africa. 

Acting US Consul-General Will Stevens announced the major investment in an email to the Eastern Cape government, which News24 had seen.

READ | Covid-19: SA in line to benefit as US lays out plan to share 55 million vaccine doses globally

The Aspen Pharmacare Covid-19 sterile manufacturing facility, in Gqenerha, was currently manufacturing 220 million doses of Johnson & Johnson vaccine for African countries. 

In March, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed that the number of doses to be produced for the continent would, at a later stage, increase to 400 million.

READ | Covid-19: Ramaphosa admits govt behind vaccine targets, hints at stronger lockdown ahead of Easter

The South African government had placed an initial order of 30 million doses for its citizens. 

The production of the vaccines at the plant formed part of the partnership between government and the private sector in the national vaccination programme.

Stevens said:

I am eager to share the exciting news below with our friends in the Eastern Cape about a major US government investment in your province. The US government is giving $200 million to Aspen Pharmaceutical to expand vaccine production in the province. The great work they are doing in the Nelson Mandela Bay will save lives in the Eastern Cape, South Africa and across the entire African continent.

Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane confirmed the investment during a media briefing on Tuesday. 

ALSO READ | SA's drug regulator must urgently provide clarity on status of local J&J vaccine - experts

Mabuyane said:

I would like to use this platform to appreciate and welcome the investment that the government of the of the United States of America will make in pumping $200 million into our Aspen plant here in Gqeberha.

Mabuyane said the investment was huge, and it would come in handy to help the province create more job opportunities for young people. 

He added:

If you go there [Aspen plant], you will find scientists and engineers coming from all over the country working there. This is something we really do appreciate from the government of USA.

During Ramaphosa's visit at the plant in March, Aspen announced it had invested more than R3 billion in the facility, which would further provide lifesaving medicines for the domestic and export markets.

ALSO READ | Eastern Cape healthcare worker dies after taking vaccine - but cause of death still to be determined

The internationally accredited facility had the capacity to produce up to 300 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine per year.

In November 2020, Aspen Pharmacare collaborated with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture vaccines at Aspen's sterile facility in Gqeberha.

The Aspen sterile manufacturing facility boasts high-technology equipment and systems that will be used to manufacture state-of-the-art sterile drugs and vaccines.

The facility packaged these products into vials, ampoules and pre-filled syringes.

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