Aspen has confirmed the release of the much-needed COVID-19 vaccines to Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to be used in South Africa.
“The first supplies to South Africa of the J&J COVID-19 vaccines, from the new API source located in Europe, will be released to J&J from its flagship Gqeberha-based manufacturing site later today,” the global multinational specialty pharmaceutical company.
In a statement released on Monday, Aspen said the single-dose shots will further be distributed throughout the country, in line with the various arrangements between J&J, the National Department of Health, and other stakeholders.
In addition, vaccines from these batches will be made available through the African Union’s COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team.
“This represents a significant landmark for South Africa and the African continent, as these are the first COVID-19 vaccines to be produced on the African continent by an African producer for South African and African patients.”
These supplies will also be made available to the European Union and other offshore markets.
During his address on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the country is scheduled to receive around 31 million additional doses from Pfizer and J&J in the next two to three months.
“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,” said Aspen Group Chief Executive, Stephen Saad.
He said the supply for Africa and South Africa is particularly rewarding, given the current global inequality in accessing vaccines.
“This represents a big step forward in ensuring that Africa can address its healthcare priorities. The manufacture of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine builds on the global contributions we have already made in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic with both our anaesthetics portfolio and dexamethasone supply.”
Aspen has invested more than R3 billion at this sterile manufacturing site, based in the Eastern Cape. This is the single largest investment in the pharmaceutical industry in South Africa.
The new sterile facility contains high technology, state-of-the-art pharmaceutical equipment, and systems that will be used to manufacture advanced sterile medicines, including vaccines.
The company said the investments have been a cornerstone of local manufacturing of the antiretroviral and multi-drug resistant tuberculosis, which demonstrates Aspen’s ongoing and enduring commitment to South Africa and the continent.