SOUTH Africa’s stalled COVID-19 vaccine drive has received a sorely needed shot in the arm with the news that Aspen Pharmacare will soon start rolling out 30 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine produced at its Gqeberha facility.
CEO Stephen Saad made the announcement on Monday during a visit by President Cyril Ramaphosa, describing the development as a “a watershed moment for Aspen” and saying that the first batch of the vaccines would be delivered to the South African market by next month, while a further 400 million doses would be made available to the African Union (AU).
“Our sterile capacity is a big step to ensuring that Africa has both the capacity and capabilities to reduce its reliance on other countries in addressing its healthcare priorities,” Saad said adding that that this was just the start of the company’s commitment.
“We have set ourselves a further target to become the pandemic solution for Africa. Security of supply for Africans is best achieved through African facilities. Aspen intends to assist with this goal by targeting further enhancement of capacities on the existing sterile footprint to ensure that we have the capabilities to give one liquid dose of vaccine per African person.”
Ramaphosa praised Aspen for putting South Africans “in pole position to receive these vaccines”, describing the Gqeberha facility as “world class” and “in another league”. He also congratulated the company on “living up to their promise of investing more than R3 billion in our country”.
Premier Oscar Mabuyane said that when Aspen had committed itself to the investment in 2018, “we did not know that we would be visited by the COVID-19 pandemic… but Aspen being the global player it is in the pharmaceutical field, quickly focused on playing their part to find a solution”.
He added that some of the research trials for the vaccine were done at the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital in Mthatha. “We are a province that is becoming a manufacturing-based economy, producing quality products to solve the challenges of the world,” Mabuyane said.