S.Africa’s Aspen says has zero orders for new covid jab
South African pharma giant Aspen said Tuesday it has not received any orders for its new anti-Covid vaccine despite relatively low vaccination rates and a looming new wave.
The Durban-headquartered company clinched a deal last November with US-based Johnson & Johnson to manufacture a “made in Africa for Africa” Aspen-branded Covid vaccine Aspenovax.
The agreement was finalised in March and trials have run since January.
But Aspen is yet to secure any orders despite Africa being the least vaccinated continent with just under 16 percent of the population immunised.
“If we do not get any Covid vaccine orders then clearly there will be no rationale for retaining the lines to make this production,” senior executive for strategic trade development Stavros Nicolau said in an email response to AFP.
The company “had counted and were assured that the regional manufacturing platform was critical and would be supported”.
“We had banked on these initial volumes to give us the time to enable us to pivot to other vaccines.
“The reality is that if Aspen cannot obtain production, what hope is there for others and why would anyone further invest in the continent? The need for regional manufacture will remain just a political nicety which has no substance.”
Aspen is Africa’s largest drug maker and had already last year entered into a deal with US pharma giant J&J to package Covid vaccines in a “fill and finish” process.
Despite the abundance of vaccines, just 66.6 percent of the available jabs have been administered to 15.8 percent of the population, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC).
Africa is battling to immunise its people against the virus, partly because of widespread vaccine hesitancy.