Thursday, 7 July, 2022
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AU pleads for support for African vaccine manufacturers

The African Union (AU) has called on international organisations to acquire at least 30% of the jabs produced by the continent for global distribution, this a fortnight after Aspen Pharmacare’s vaccine plant in the Eastern Cape said it faced closure after not receiving a single order since opening.

It had negotiated a licensing deal in November 2020 to package and sell Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine and distribute it across Africa, and was opened with high expectations.

Business Live reports that it has since said it might have to switch its vaccine production lines to anaesthetics due to lack of orders, while state-backed vaccine manufacturer Biovac says uncertain demand means it may not reach its planned target of bottling 100m doses of Pfizerʼs jab a year.

In a statement issued after last week’s virtual meeting of African heads of state and French President Emanuel Macron (the 2nd Global Summit on COVID-19), the AU said global purchasing facilities such as the Global Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) were hampering the development of African manufacturing capacity by not buying their jabs.

The AU has been pushing for African countries to develop their own vaccine manufacturing capacity, after the pandemic highlighted the dangers of depending on imports. Many African countries were left at the back of the queue as countries with domestic manufacturing capacity prioritised their own populations, and rich countries snapped up supplies with pre-purchase agreements, leaving Gavi and its WHO-backed partner Covax struggling to obtain stocks.

But now that richer countries have inoculated a large proportion of their populations and international production has ramped up, Africaʼs emerging vaccine producers are struggling to find customers.

The problem is worsened by Africaʼs slow vaccine uptake, which is way below expectations. Only half a billion vaccines have been administered on the continent to date, and just 17.3% of its population is fully immunised, the WHO said last week.

The AU heads of state called on African nations to step up their vaccination efforts, and agreed to a series of recommendations from President Cyril Ramaphosa in his role as AU champion for COVID-19 response, which include setting up African procurement mechanisms to create certainty of demand for African vaccine manufacturers. He added that to address low testing rates, AU member states had committed to a target of 200m SARS-COV-2 tests by the end of 2022.

Aspen has so far bottled about 180m doses of J&Jʼs vaccine, but has yet to start manufacturing a clone of the jab, which it had hoped to sell to African customers.


BusinessLIVE article – AU calls on international agencies to support African vaccine manufacturers(Restricted access)


President Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Africa’s first vaccine plant faces closure after Aspen receives no orders


US injects $200m into J&J vaccine production in Eastern Cape


J&J vaccines from Gqeberha plant wing their way to AU states




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