COVID-19: Africa May Be Muscled Out of Vaccine Access
There had been concern that Africa would be at the back of the queue when a COVID-19 vaccine is finally approved, Bloomberg reported.
Aspen Pharmacare, the continent’s biggest drugmaker, announced a deal this week to make 300 million doses a year of the inoculation being developed by Johnson & Johnson — should it be approved.
The agreement to manufacture the shot in the South African city of Port Elizabeth is the first such deal in Africa and the projected volumes are enough to enable exports around the region.
The pact comes as many of the world’s richest nations and regions, such as the U.S. and the European Union, have said they will pre-buy hundreds of millions of vaccine doses, raising fears there will be little left over for the world’s poor.
“For Africa and lower-income countries, vaccine access is a big issue,” said Glenda Gray, president of the South African Medical Research Council and co-chair of the South African arm of J&J’s global vaccine trial. “It’s a wonderful opportunity.”
Still, nothing is certain. The shot remains in the clinical-trial stage, Aspen has never made vaccines before and it will take time to transfer the technology needed to make the jab.
Even so, it’s a positive step. If the J&J vaccine fails, Aspen’s move to fast-track production capacity could enable the company to sign a new deal with a different supplier that had more success.
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