Aspen’s Gqeberha factory to manufacture millions of Covid-19 vaccines
At least half of the South African population will receive a Johnson & Johnson vaccine manufactured in Gqeberha, Aspen CEO Stephen Saad said on Monday
At least half of the South African population will receive a Johnson & Johnson (J&J) vaccine manufactured in Gqeberha — home to Aspen Pharmacare’s R3bn sterile facility.
Aspen CEO Stephen Saad made the announcement on Monday during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s whirlwind tour of the facility, which contains hi-tech equipment and systems.
Saad said the first batch would be made available to SA by April, HeraldLIVE reported.
A further supply of 400 million vaccines, also manufactured at the Gqeberha facility, will be dispatched to the African Union (AU).
“This is a watershed moment for Aspen as we continue to implement our strategic vision of delivering quality, affordable medicines using high technology pharmaceutical equipment that contributes to improved health outcomes,” Saad said, addressing Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza.
Ramaphosa led an oversight visit to the facility to check on the progress of the production of the J&J jab.
Aspen joined forces with J&J in November to establish whether the Gqeberha factory had the capacity required for the manufacturing of the Covid-19 vaccine.
The sterile facility, known as SVP 2, can package products into vials, ampoules and pre-filled syringes.
“Aspen is the only manufacturing site on the African continent and in the southern hemisphere selected by J&J to compound, fill, finish and package the Covid-19 vaccine,” Saad said.
He was particularly proud that the vaccine was being manufactured in Africa. “We hope our success will inspire and give confidence to others to further invest in our continent.”
President Cyril Ramaphosa and his deputy, David Mabuza, visited Aspen Pharmacare's Gqeberha factory on March 29 2021. The collaboration between Aspen and Johnson & Johnson will see around 30 million of the J&J vaccine being produced for the country.
Saad said there would be equitable access to the vaccines. “I must reiterate that equitable access is important.”
South African Medical Research Council CEO Prof Glenda Gray joined the announcement virtually.
“It is clear this vaccine will be available for everyone in Africa,” she said.
J&J chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels said the company started on the road just 14 months ago to find a vaccine.
“No-one is safe unless everyone is safe,” he said, adding that he looked forward to having the vaccine delivered to SA and the rest of the AU.
“We will end this pandemic,” Stoffels vowed.
Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane said the province preferred the J&J vaccine as it was a single dose.
J&J’s single-dose vaccine candidate is one of a handful being used around the world, along with shots developed by Pfizer, Moderna, Novavax and AstraZeneca, which all require double doses.
“Our province is ready to roll out once more of the vaccine is available,” Mabuyane said.