SOUTH AFRICA – Aspen Pharmacare has secured a US$ 698 million (SAR10 billion) financing package to support the pharmaceutical firm’s operations, including the production of vaccines.

The United States International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) in collaboration with the World Bank Group, Germany, and France announced a joint investment to boost vaccine manufacturing capacity in Africa.

This is the largest healthcare investment and mobilization the IFC has led globally to date.

The financing will help Aspen to refinance existing debt and strengthen the company’s balance sheet, supporting Aspen’s operations, including production of vaccines and other therapies in African and emerging markets, a statement said.

Additionally, the financing will enable a South African business to ramp up manufacturing capacity and produce more than 500 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine by the end of 2022.

This deal builds on President Biden’s recent announcements that the U.S. would donate 80 million vaccines to share with the world.

USA will also purchase and provide an additional 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine to COVAX, the global vaccine initiative, to support 92 low- and middle-income countries and the African Union, Biden said.

The four development finance institutions also have the objective of helping to facilitate an increase in vaccine manufacturing know-how within Africa by partnering with Aspen.

Aspen has partnered with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) to compound, finish, fill and package Janssen, a J&J Covid19 vaccine, at its sterile facility in South Africa.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to access this funding package arranged by IFC. Aspen is seeking to play a meaningful role in contributing to the delivering the majority of Africa’s needs from production sites located in Africa,” Stephen Saad, Aspen’s chief executive, said.

In November last year, South Africa’s biggest drug maker announced it had agreed to provide capacity required for the manufacture of J&J’s vaccine candidate, at its Port Elizabeth facility.

The production area where it is intended that the vaccine candidate will be manufactured has capacity to produce more than 300 million doses per annum,” it added.

The agreement with J&J will see Aspen perform formulation, filling and secondary packaging of the vaccine for the U.S. firm.

If the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed anything, it’s that vaccine manufacturing must be dramatically scaled up. Africa currently imports 99 percent of its vaccines.