While Aspen was especially careful in its announcement Tuesday, saying it had reached a “non-binding” agreement with two Johnson & Johnson subsidiaries to begin negotiations for a definitive agreement to manufacture and sell Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines in Africa. , it seems certain that a final agreement will follow.
Some of the important prerequisites are already in place. Aspen is willing to provide the cash for manufacturing, it was agreed that the vaccine will be distributed under the Aspen brand, and more importantly, it gained acceptance from major players.
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Dr. Adrian Thomas, Johnson & Johnson’s vice president of strategy and external affairs, noted during a discussion about the proposed venture that it will surely address the low vaccination rate on the African continent, which he said is significantly lower than that on the African continent. . rest of the world.
The agreement will cover future variants
“Johnson & Johnson is fully committed to helping scale up vaccines. This is an important milestone in the manufacture of vaccines in Africa for Africa, ”said Thomas, adding that the agreement will cover future variants.
“Only by working together and sharing skills can we be successful.”
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President Cyril Ramaphosa, former President of the African Union and now recognized as a key proponent of vaccines, apologized for not being able to attend the event and sent a message of support: “The effectiveness of our response as an African continent to Covid-La The pandemic has been severely hampered by the extremely uneven distribution of vaccines around the world.
“Today’s landmark announcement between Aspen Pharmacare of Africa and Johnson & Johnson is the culmination of months of hard work with, among others, the African Union, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of Africa and the African Acquisition Fund. of Vaccines, in the development of production capacity in 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 in the future. ”
Aspen announced that the agreement would expand existing manufacturing and technical transfer agreements between Aspen and Johnson & Johnson to give Aspen the rights to:
- Manufacture the finished Sars-CoV-2 Covid-19 vaccine product from a pharmaceutical substance supplied by Johnson & Johnson; and
- Sell the vaccine in finished form, which will be launched and marked Aspenovax, to public sector markets in Africa through transactions with designated multilateral organizations and with the national governments of the African Union member states.
In addition, Johnson & Johnson will license Aspen the enabling intellectual property for this purpose.
The term of the granting of rights and supply of drug substance, subject to the signing of the definitive agreement, would be until December 31, 2026. The non-binding term includes a commitment in good faith between the parties to discuss the extension of the agreement to include any new version of the drug, such as those developed for new variants or as a different formulation for administration as a booster, and the applicable terms thereof, depending on the announcement.
Aspen CEO Stephen Saad reiterated biased access to vaccines around the world. “The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted unequal access to vaccines globally. This is as evident as in Africa, which has historically had no choice but to import 99% of its vaccine needs.
“Those regions with capacity and manufacturing capabilities have enjoyed easy access to vaccines, those that don’t have not. Africa continues to be limited by vaccines, preventing an effective response to the need to protect Africans against the virus.
“We are very grateful to Johnson & Johnson for their confidence in partnering with Aspen to address these challenges,” said Saad.
“Through our contract manufacturing partnership with Johnson & Johnson, Aspen has been able to manufacture more than 100 million doses of the Janssen Covid vaccine to date, nearly all of which have been supplied to Africa.”
He said the company is pleased to announce Johnson & Johnson’s intention to grant Aspen the rights to manufacture and sell Aspen’s own brand of vaccine in Africa.
“These rights and the accompanying access to intellectual property have provided us with the catalyst to further increase our vaccine manufacturing capabilities in South Africa,” Saad said, adding that the manufacturing capacity will be used exclusively for supply to customers. Africans.
Discussion of the agreement involved leading voices in the fight against the pandemic, and Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Africa, voiced support for the idea.
“It will make a significant contribution to the availability of vaccines,” he said.
“There is an urgent need to accelerate the adoption of vaccines in Africa.”
Listen to Fifi Peters’ interview with Aspen Executive Vice President Gus Attridge (or read the transcript here):