Aspen to manufacture J&J COVID vax in South Africa

March 10, 2022

South African drug manufacturer Aspen Pharmacare has signed a deal to manufacture and distribute Johnson & Johnson's COVID vax. 

According to the agreement, Aspen will be able to make Aspen-branded COVID-19 vaccines for the African public sector using J&J's COVID-19 drug substance. The finished Aspen vaccines can be distributed across the 55 member states of the African Union and to organizations supporting Africa’s vaccine efforts like the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) and the COVAX facility.

The two began their relationship in November 2020, when J&J tapped the South African manufacturing giant for fill-finish services of J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine at facilities in South Africa. 

The new agreement could be a game-changer in getting more people in the African continent vaccinated. Just 12% of Africa’s population is fully vaccinated, which falls well below the World Health Organization’s target of 70%, according to J&J. The New Jersey-based company has also sent 200 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to Africa through various ways including advance purchase agreements and government donations, according to J&J. 

Other manufacturers have made efforts to help expand vaccination in the continent as well.

Pfizer partner BioNTech has plans to build modular factories, called BioNTainers, that can produce mRNA vaccines in bulk, save for the final fill-and-finish step. The company plans to ship its modular factories to Rwanda, Senegal and potentially South Africa by the end of 2022. 

Recently, Moderna announced it would build a state-of-the-art $500 million facility in the Republic of Kenya that could churn out up to 500 million doses of mRNA vaccines per year, starting with the company’s very own COVID-19 vaccine, Spikevax. 

Currently, J&J’s vaccine is approved under an emergency use authorization by the U.S. FDA. The emergency use listing by the WHO has been authorized in many other countries around the world, including the EU.