On Saturday, a company executive stated that First African Covid-19 vaccine plant is on the brink of a shut down. The company which was earlier praised as a trailblazer for the African continent, is currently being frustrated by a lack of orders.
Aspen Pharmacare (APNJ.J) of South Africa inked a licensing agreement with Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N). The agreement was to package and sell the COVID-19 vaccine across Africa.
The agreement, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), was a “transformative moment” in the effort to remove significant discrepancies in COVID vaccine access.
Aspen Phamacare’s Dilemma
According to WHO figures from the end of March Africa has few vaccinated individuals. This makes Aspen’s agreement to market an Aspen-branded COVID-19 vaccine (First African Covid-19 vaccine plant), Aspenovax, across Africa a sure thing.
However, Aspen senior director Stavros Nicolaou told Reuters; “There have been no orders for Aspenovax.” Clearly, this means there will be very little reason to continue manufacturing. Especially if they don’t get any kind of vaccination orders.”
Africa has logistical challenges; a shortage of qualified workers, cold chains, and other vaccine distribution concerns. Another issue is that donor countries have recently paid up after initially leaving Africa; guaranteeing that the continent is well-supplied.
The company’s long-term ambition; according to Nicolaou; is to start making additional vaccines; but the company relied on these early volumes to buy time to set up.
On the other hand, the African Union wants to produce 60% of all vaccines in Africa by 2040. “If Aspen doesn’t get production, what chance is there for other initiatives?” Nicolaou said.