Aspen Pharmacare readying to make Johnson & Johnson Covid vaccine
CAPE TOWN - Global healthcare group Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will decide if any of the 230 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine scheduled to be produced at Aspen Pharmacare’s Port Elizabeth factory will be sold in the South African market, Aspen senior executive, strategic trade, Stavros Nicolaou said Tuesday.
SA needs to vaccinate around 40 million South Africans or 65-70 percent of its population in months to achieve herd immunity and contain the public health emergency, and to get traction behind economic recovery.
Aspen will contract manufacture to produce the J&J vaccine in Port Elizabeth following the signing of a technology transfer agreement between the two companies, he said in an interview with Business Report.
On Sunday evening health minister Zweli Mkhize said the government aimed to have vaccines available, initially for healthcare workers, by February, but the government was still in talks with pharmaceutical companies and no deals had been signed as yet.
There has however been growing criticism, such as from trade unions, of the slow response from the government in obtaining vaccines from international companies such as Pfizer that have developed the drug - many other countries have started rolling out mass immunisation programmes.
J&J’s vaccine, in Phase 3 clinical trials. would be the third vaccine seeking authorization from the US’s Food and Drug Administration expected later this month, if the Phase 3 clinical trials were successful, and the vaccine would also subsequently have to be approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), Nicolaou said.
The J&J vaccine was expected to become available globally in the second quarter. J&J’s vaccine was developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a Belgium based division of J&J.
Nicolaou said expert opinion indicated the the J&J vaccine, and the AstraZeneca/Oxford University vaccine being rolled out in the UK, appeared the two best suited to South African conditions.
These two vaccines would not require the stringent refrigerated transport and storage requirements that are required by the two most widely available and FDA approved vaccines in the world at present, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, while the J&J vaccine would require only one dose.
The Pfizer and the Modern vaccines have already been submitted to the SAHPRA for approval.
Nicolaou said 6 million South Africans were likely to be vaccinated from the Covax initiative, a pooled arrangement to procure some 200 billion vaccines from a range of manufacturers to provide to up to 20 percent of the populations of poorer countries.
At present, the Covax initiative is the only firm commitment that South Africa has to access to a vaccine, but bilateral discussions were underway with manufacturers.
Nicolaou said a further 34 million South Africans would need to be vaccinated for herd immunity to be achieved, and the private and public sector were currently working with medical schemes to provide a funding mechanism for some of the remaining populations.
BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE