Africa will have its own Covid-19 vaccination branded Aspenovax following the landmark partnership between Aspen South Africa and Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)
Africa will have its own Covid-19 vaccination branded Aspenovax following the landmark partnership between Aspen South Africa and Johnson & Johnson (J&J). Picture: Bongani Mbatha /African News Agency (ANA)

Aspenovax is Africa's own Covid-19 vaccine brand after landmark partnership between Aspen SA and J&J

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Dec 1, 2021

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AFRICA will have its own Covid-19 vaccination branded Aspenovax following the landmark partnership between Aspen South Africa and Johnson & Johnson (J&J).

Under the agreement J&J will grant Aspen intellectual property licence to produce vaccinations for the continent.

Aspen SA will manufacture Covid-19 vaccines from drug substances supplied by J&J, and sell the vaccines to national governments of member states of the AUand public sector markets across Africa through transactions with designated multilateral organisations.

Aspen’s group chief executive, Stephen Saad, said that the Covid-19 pandemic had highlighted the inequitable access to vaccines globally.

“This is evident no more so than in Africa, which has historically had no option but to import 99 percent of its vaccine requirements.

“Those regions with manufacturing capacity and capabilities have enjoyed ready access to Covid-19 vaccines, those without have not. Africa remains vaccine constrained, preventing an effective response to the need to protect Africans against the virus,” Saad said.

Saad said through the contract manufacturing partnership with J&J, Aspen had been able to manufacture more than 100 million doses of the Janssen Covid-19-vaccine to date, almost all of which had been supplied to Africa.

“Today, we are pleased to announce the intention for J&J to grant Aspen the rights to manufacture and sell Aspen’s own brand of the vaccine in Africa,” said Saad.

He added these rights and the accompanying access to intellectual property provided the group with the catalyst to further increase its vaccine manufacturing capacities in South Africa.

“This represents a bold step forward in sustainably capacitating Africa with the ability to manufacture Aspenovax and release it exclusively for supply to African customers. A Covid-19 vaccine made in Africa for Africa,” Saad said. Aspen said the term of the grant of rights and supply of drug substance, subject to the signing of the definitive agreement, would be until December, 31, 2026.

Stavros Nicolaou, Aspen Pharmacare’s senior executive responsible for strategic trade development, said the agreement was a game-changer for the African continent.

“Africa has been at the back of the queue for Covid-19 vaccines, and this agreement is a game-changer,” he said.

Nicolaou said Aspen’s target was to serve 400 million people out of the 800 million people on the African continent who were indeed of jabs.

He said it was too early to tell whether vaccines would respond to the new variant, Omicron.

“We believe that the more people get the vaccine, the more likely we are to break transmission,” said Nicolaou.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, AU’s Covid champion, said the landmark announcement between Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare and J&J was the culmination of months of hard work with, among others, the AU, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, in developing production capacity on the continent.

“This announcement will make an important contribution to addressing vaccine inequality and building Africa’s capacity to meet its own vaccine needs now and into the future,” Ramaphosa said. Strive Masiyiwa, AU’s special envoy on Covid-19, said: “The biggest and boldest step that Africa took through the Africa Vaccine Acquisition Trust and AUn, was signing a contract with J&J for 400 million doses for the continent, the majority of which is to be produced by Aspen.

“Today’s announcement is an important milestone. It secures Africa’s future vaccine production and ensures that the gross vaccine inequality we witnessed in the early part of the pandemic is not repeated.”

The agreement was subject to regulatory approvals.

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BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE

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