New Brunswick-based Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has announced the completion of a landmark agreement between Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., and manufacturer Aspen SA Operations (Pty) Ltd, based in South Africa, to enable the first COVID-19 vaccine to be manufactured and made available by an African company for people living in Africa, with the goal of increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates across the continent.
Currently, only about 12% of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, which is well below the World Health Organization’s target of 70% population coverage for all countries.
“From the outset of this pandemic, we aimed to develop a simple-to-use and accessible vaccine that could be transported around the world through standard vaccine distribution channels,” said Martin Fitchet, M.D., head of Global Public Health, J&J, Cilag GmbH International. “We initiated clinical trials in all regions of the world to generate evidence across multiple geographies and diverse, at-risk populations and forged a strategic partnership with Aspen in Africa and others to manufacture our vaccine globally. We’re proud to take our long-standing collaboration with Aspen to the next level, to continue to address the COVID-19 threat and lay the groundwork for a healthier, more secure future for people in Africa.”
To date, J&J has shipped more than 200 million vaccine doses to Africa through a combination of its advance purchase agreements with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, South Africa and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on behalf of the COVAX Facility, along with government donations. As one of J&J’s contract manufacturers since November 2020, Aspen has been a significant supplier within the J&J global network.
The agreement enables Aspen, using COVID-19 vaccine drug substance supplied by J&J, to produce Aspen-branded finished vaccine and make doses available to the public sector in Africa, including all 55 Member States of the African Union and key multilateral entities supporting Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, inclusive of the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), and the COVAX Facility.
“With the conclusion of this agreement, our vision for Africa’s own vaccine has become a reality,” said Stephen Saad, Aspen Group chief executive. “This has been achieved through tremendous teamwork and collaboration between J&J and Aspen. Through this agreement and their earlier actions, J&J has demonstrated its commitment to our continent. Initially by choosing Aspen, located in Africa, as a core manufacturing partner, and then by showing resolve and dedication to a technical transfer process during the most stringent lockdown periods of the COVID outbreak.”
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