South African pharmaceutical company Aspen Pharmacare on Tuesday announced its deal with the American firm Johnson & Johnson to jointly manufacture its COVID-19 vaccine candidate ‘Ad26.COV3-S’. The manufacture of the vaccine is subject to its approval internationally and in South Africa.
In a statement issued on Monday, Aspen Pharmacare said, “If the ongoing trials convince international health authorities to validate the J&J vaccine as effective and safe, then its production would be initiated at Aspen’s manufacturing facility in Port Elizabeth in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province.” The company emphasised that its manufacturing facility has the capacity to produce more than ‘300 million doses of the vaccine per year.’
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine candidate ‘Ad26.COV3-S’ is one of the four vaccines candidates currently undergoing clinical trials in South Africa.
Johnson & Johnson would be responsible for facilitating the supply of the vaccine in large batches and Aspen would be responsible for putting it into phials and packaging it for individual doses once a final commercial agreement is drawn, Aspen said in the statement.
Chief executive of Aspen, Stephen Saad stated that the company has invested more than 3 Billion Rands ($184 million) in its South African manufacturing facility and has a strong record of supplying medicinal drugs for the treatment of HIV/Aids and multi-drug-resistant TB.
The rolling 7-day average of daily new cases in South Africa has not witnessed a surge over the past two weeks, dropping from 2.73 new cases per 100,000 people on October 18 to 2.64 new cases per 100,000 people on November 1. However, according to the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention, South Africa has reported 726,823 cases in total which makes up for more than 40 percent of the total number of cases recorded in Africa.
Earlier, protests were demonstrated at Johannesburg in South Africa in July against the clinical trials of a vaccine candidate proposed by the University of Oxford, in which about 2,000 people were expected to participate. Protestors claimed that the people who were chosen as volunteers for the trials were from impoverished backgrounds and were not fully aware of the potential risks associated with the trials.
However, the body running the trials clarified that all the participating volunteers were given substantial information about the trial and had to undertake an examination about the trial and pass with a grade of 80 percent to be eligible for participation. A United Nations webinar was informed by experts in June that the misinformation which had spread about testing had helped fuel anti-vaccine sentiment in Africa.