COVID-19: Aspen plans to expand manufacturing for improved vaccine access in Africa

*Biggest African pharma-firm Aspen pushes for technology transfers, as the French Government favours of lifting hurdles to allow vaccine production on the continent

*Africa needs vaccines now. Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope, says World Health Organisation

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

With a sustained demand for assurances on technology transfers and assistance with licences to enhance production, Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited plans to expand its manufacturing capabilities to improve COVID-19 Vaccine access on the African continent.

ConsumerConnect reports Stephen Saad, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, in a statement after a seminar hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, disclosed that the Africa’s largest pharmaceutical company is currently seeking assurances on technology transfers and assistance with licences to accomplish this objective.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Saad stated that the campaign is “so that Africa can lessen its reliance of being an importer of 99% of all its vaccines.”

This publication had reported that the Sub-Saharan Africa has only managed to vaccinate 2 percent of its population against the disruptive Coronavirus pandemic to date.

There are fewer than 10 vaccine manufacturers in Africa, based across South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Senegal, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Incidentally, most of these firms perform essentially products packaging and labelling rather than manufacturing on the continent, according to report.

However, Macron during his visit to South Africa in the past week said that France was in favour of lifting hurdles to allow vaccine production on the continent.

France already has a partnership with South Africa’s Biovac Institute and would soon start a project with the Durban-based Aspen, according to Macron.

The country supports waiving of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, a move also supported by United States President Joe Biden.

Hitherto, Aspen has a deal with Johnson & Johnson to fill and finish its version of the COVID-19 vaccine at its 3.4 billion-Rand ($240 million) plant completed 2020.

The company also produces Dexamethasone and anesthetics used to treat the Coronavirus.

In respect of limited supplies from the manufacturers, it is recalled WHO recently said that Africa needs at least 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca Vaccine within six weeks if those who have had their first shot are to get the second in time.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, in a statement had said: “Africa needs vaccines now…. Any pause in our vaccination campaigns will lead to lost lives and lost hope.”

The WHO latest statement, again, was said to have underscored the importance of respecting the recommended interval of eight to 12 weeks between doses to ensure a recipient’s prolonged 81-percent protection rate in consumers.

The global health body’s statement noted: “In addition to this urgent need, another 200 million doses of any WHO Emergency Use Listed COVID-19 vaccine are needed so that the continent can vaccinate 10% of its population by September 2021.”

Meanwhile, as of May 26, 2021, Africa had registered more than 4.7 million cases of coronavirus with nearly 130,000 deaths attributed to the virus, according to agency report.

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