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Aspen SA to halt vaccine output as J&J orders dry up

Aspen Pharmacare, intended to be a game-changer for the continent at the time of its launch in Gqeberha, will stop making COVID-19 vaccines from the end of this month, further undermining Africa’s already meagre capacity to produce doses.

Aspen currently produces vaccines for Johnson & Johnson, and in March, signed a deal to produce, price and sell its own-brand version of the shot for African markets.

The continent has been hamstrung by slow Western handouts, and despite only a fifth of Africa’s adults being fully vaccinated, the anticipated demand for shots has never materialised, reports Reuters.

Aspen has had no orders for its Aspenovax vaccine and received no orders from J&J beyond August.

“We don’t know if we will get further orders from J&J, but we are finishing off production of what we’ve got,” said Aspen group executive Stavros Nicolaou.

Without new orders, the facility would have to close all of its 450m-dose annual production capacity, he said.

He was hoping the company might hear from J&J by September as to whether any new orders were in the pipeline, but said that those might still not be enough.

Most of the company’s COVID-19 production lines were designed to produce Aspenovax for Africa, initial plans aimed to boost annual capacity to 700m doses by February and a further expansion to 1bn doses to meet expected demand.

However, the Aspenovax production lines are sitting idle. Without Aspenovax orders, Aspen would have to convert production lines to manufacture anaesthetics, Nicolaou said.

“Then Africa loses its COVID vaccine capacity, the only one really that exists on the continent," he said. “We cannot continue with vacant lines indefinitely. And we would have to get an order imminently.”


Reuters article – S.Africa’s Aspen to halt COVID vaccine output as J&J orders dry up (Open access)


See more from MedicalBrief archives:


Aspen rebukes global vaccine bodies for ‘shirking responsibilities’


Another blow to Aspen’s SA plant: WHO has no plans to buy its vaccines


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


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