Rep office reports

Aspen releases first batch of J&J vaccines in boost to inoculation drive (Economic Division in South Africa)
Kind: Rep office reports  Organization: Department of International Cooperation  Publish Date: 2021-08-13 14:14
Johnson & Johnson shots with active ingredients from Europe ar to supply SA, AU and EU

SA’s biggest pharmaceutical manufacturer, Aspen Pharmacare, began supplying the government with Johnson & Johnson (J&J) coronavirus vaccines on Monday, dispatching 1.49-million doses to the department of health in a major boost to the country’s serially delayed inoculation drive.
The government has so far received only 1.5-million of the 31-million doses it ordered from J&J, hobbling its original plans to provide the single-shot vaccine to rural areas and harder-to-reach communities when it launched its mass vaccination programme in May. The government has to date largely relied on limited supplies of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which requires two shots.

“We are months behind,” said health deputy director-general for National Health Insurance Nicholas Crisp. As of Sunday, 6.38-million vaccine doses had been dispensed, but only 2.36-million people were fully vaccinated. Supplies are expected to ramp up significantly in August and September, which will enable the government to offer vaccination to all adults from September 1.

“There is some stress still this week, but the line-up from different sources for the 60 days after that is fantastic,” Crisp said.

The vaccines dispatched from Aspen on Monday will require clearance from the national control laboratory in Bloemfontein before distribution to vaccination sites, which could receive stock by the end of this week, he said.

Aspen will supply the government with another 619,450 doses of J&J vaccines on August 2, he said. The department of health is receiving regular deliveries from Pfizer, and expects 1.4-million doses of Pfizer vaccines from the international vaccine financing vehicle Covax next weekend, he said.

Further deliveries of J&J vaccines are expected in August and September, to meet J&J's commitment to supply SA with 9.1- million doses in the third quarter, according to Aspen's head of strategic trade Stavros Nicolaou.

The delay in the delivery of J&J shots was caused by contamination problems identified in April by the US Food and Drug Administration at Emergent Biosolutions, which had supplied tainted ingredients to J&J contractors around the world, including Aspen. The problem forced J&J to destroy millions of vaccine doses, including 2-million that Aspen had helped produce.

Aspen formulates, fills and packages vials of the vaccine at its sterile facility in Gqeberha, which it has previously said has capacity to produce up to 300-million doses a year. The vaccines released by Aspen on Monday have been made with active pharmaceutical ingredients sourced from J&'J's Leiden facility in the Netherlands.

Aspen CEO Stephen Saad said the single-shot J&J vaccine, which can be stored in an ordinary refrigerator, is cheaper and simpler to administer than other jabs that require ultra cold storage and two shots several weeks apart.

“There is a real advantage to having ‘one and done’,” he said.

Aspen plans to ramp up production in January, adding about 150-million more doses a year to its original production target, he said. “The limiting factor is the supply of active pharmaceutical ingredients.”

Saad said Aspen is in negotiations to secure a licence to make the J&J vaccine, which if successful would give Aspen greater control over the choice of customer to supply and could result in it making its own active pharmaceutical ingredients in the future.

Aspen said the vaccines coming off its line are be distributed to SA and the AU’s African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team. Supplies will also be shipped to the EU and other offshore markets. From October, however, the vaccines will be solely distributed in Africa.

Update: 2020-04-08
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