SOUTH AFRICA – South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare will supply the first batch of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to the country as from today, the drug maker has announced.

These will be the first set of vaccines to be manufactured in the country from active pharmaceutical ingredients (API), substances used to make the final drug product, sourced from Europe.

Supply for Africa and South Africa is particularly rewarding, given the current global inequality in accessing vaccines,” Stephen Saad, chief executive of Aspen said in a statement.

“This represents a big step forward in ensuring that Africa can address its healthcare priorities.”

The supplies will also be distributed to other African countries under the African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team under which J&J has committed to supply 220 million doses of the single shot vaccine, Aspen said.

South Africa has so far managed to administer 6.38 million vaccine doses. 2.3 million people are fully inoculated, representing 3.9% of the country’s population.

The country, which is the most adversely affected by COVID-19 in Africa, suffered a major vaccination drive setback in April, after U.S. Federal Drug Administration halted production of J&J vaccines at a plant in Baltimore run by Emergent Biosolutions Inc after it was found to be contaminated.

Aspen, which is in contract with J&J to manufacture the vaccines in South Africa in a process called ‘fill and finish’, had been sourcing APIs from the Baltimore plant and was asked to destroy 2 million doses as part of the finding of the FDA.

In the meantime, Africa’s dependence on imports of COVID-19 vaccine has left it vulnerable to repeated waves of the coronavirus, raising demands for vaccine production facilities in the continent.

The continent carrying the bulk of the worlds less privileged countries has administered just 60 million vaccine doses in a population of 1.3 billion. This is due to restrictions on shipments from vaccine-producing nations.

The move by Aspen comes shortly after South Africa’s Biovac Institute struck a deal with Pfizer for a “fill and finish” arrangement to produce 100 million vaccines by 2022-2023.

Both Pfizer and Aspen do not have licenses to make the drug substance used in the m-RNA vaccines, an impediment to timely and effective delivery of the vaccines.

Such is why the World Health Organization said it was setting up a hub, or training facility, in South Africa to give companies there the know-how and licenses to produce COVID-19 vaccines.

South Africa had made a request for the suspension of protections on intellectual property underlying Covid-19 vaccines to widen production, especially in developing countries, an initiative that has since received mixed reactions, with most manufactures being opposed to the idea.

Ghana to invest US$25 million for local COVID-19 vaccine production

Subsequently, the government of Ghana has committed a seed funding of US$25 million for the local production of COVID-19 vaccines, President Nana Akufo-Addo has said.

Ghana plans to establish a national vaccine institute, whose mandates will include establishing local vaccine manufacturing plants, deepening research and development for vaccines, Akufo-Addo said.

The global shortage of vaccines means that we must develop our capacity to produce our own vaccines domestically and reduce our dependence on foreign supplies,” the president said.

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