South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare released the first batch of Johnson & Johnson (J&J) COVID-19 vaccines to the country last week from its flagship Gqeberha-based manufacturing site.
The occasion marked the first set of vaccines to be manufactured here from active pharmaceutical ingredients (API) substances used to make the final drug product, sourced from Europe.
The vaccines will be further distributed throughout South Africa in line with the various distribution 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 Vaccine Acquisition Task Team/African Union platform, through which J&J has committed to supply 220 million doses of the single shot vaccine, Aspen said.
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.
SA’s vaccination drive was delayed in April after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) halted production of J&J vaccines at a plant in Baltimore run by Emergent Biosolutions after it was found to be contaminated.
Aspen, which has been contracted by J&J to manufacture the vaccines in SA in a process called “fill and finish”, had been sourcing APIs from that plant and had to destroy nearly a million doses.
SAʼs Biovac Institute struck a deal with Pfizer recently for a fill and finish arrangement to produce 100 million vaccines by 2022-2023.
Issued by Aspen Holdings