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Johnson & Johnson working on Covid-19 vaccine, and it'll be produced in SA

03 November 2020 - 11:35 By unathi nkanjeni
Aspen's production area has the capacity to produce more than 300 million vaccine doses a year.
Aspen's production area has the capacity to produce more than 300 million vaccine doses a year.

SA's largest pharmaceutical group, Aspen, has secured a Covid-19 vaccine deal with Johnson & Johnson.

The pharmaceutical group announced on Monday that the Covid-19 vaccine would be produced at its existing sterile facility in Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape.

Aspen said its subsidiary Pharmacare Limited, which trades as Aspen Pharmacare, entered into a preliminary agreement with two pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson.

The agreement is for “the technical transfer and proposed commercial manufacture of their Covid-19 vaccine candidate, Ad26. COV2-S (adenovirus serotype 26)”. 

“The vaccine candidate is currently undergoing clinical trials. Aspen Pharmacare will perform formulation, filling and secondary packaging of the vaccine for supply to Johnson & Johnson,” the group said.

“This agreement is still subject to the successful completion of the relevant technology transfer activities and finalisation of certain commercial manufacturing terms.”

According to the group, it invested more than R3bn in the facility together with the high technology equipment and systems that will be used to “manufacture state-of-the-art sterile drugs and vaccines packaged into vials, ampoules and pre-filled syringes”. 

The production area where it is intended the vaccine candidates, without a timeline, will be manufactured has the capacity to produce more than 300 million doses every year.

Aspen's group CEO Stephen Saad said this project will receive priority.

“We have invested globally in our sterile capability and are determined to play a role in the manufacture of vaccines to add to our proud track record of making contributions to humanity in times of global pandemics,” he said.

“This has included, inter alia, being a leading global supplier for antiretrovirals for the treatment of HIV/Aids, multi-drug-resistant-TB products and Covid-19-related treatments such as anaesthetics and dexamethasone.

“We have been selected as a vaccine partner by Johnson & Johnson and this project will receive priority focus. We are particularly pleased to be given the opportunity of providing assistance for patients in need across the world from our SoA base.”    

According to Reuters, Johnson & Johnson said it plans to start testing its experimental Covid-19 vaccine on children as young as 12 to 18 as soon as possible.

The company's Dr Jerry Sadoff said depending on safety and other factors, it also plans to test in even younger children afterwards.

Johnson & Johnson announced in September that it was testing the vaccine in adults as part of a 60,000-volunteer phase 3 study. It paused the trial last month due to an “unexplained illness in a study participant”, but resumed it again two weeks later.


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