Aspen Covid vaccine lines risk remaining idle as J&J orders dwindle

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Aspen Pharmacare’s Covid-19 vaccine production lines in South Africa could soon become idle and, without new orders, they could be forced to switch to manufacturing other products, a senior executive said on Wednesday.

Source: Reuters An Aspen Pharmacare worker is seen at its Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccination facility in Gqeberha.

spen currently produces vaccines for Johnson & Johnson, and in March it reached an agreement to produce, price and sell its own version of the vaccine for African markets.

The deal was seen as a game-changer for a continent frustrated with slow Western subsidies. But, while only a fifth of adults in Africa are fully immunized, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, demand for vaccines has not materialized.

Aspen has not received any orders for its Aspenovax vaccine, and future demand for J&J cannot be predicted, said Aspen Group senior executive Stavros Nicolaou, leaving the future of its production capacity in doubt. 450 million doses per year.

“The problem here is that we don’t know if we will receive any more orders from J&J. But we are producing what we currently have on order,” he said.

“Intense” talks are underway with J&J as well as bilateral organizations to secure orders quickly, Nicolaou added.

Without them, he said, Aspen might decide to turn to manufacturing anesthetics or other sterile products.

Origin: Supplied.  Reuters.  A healthcare worker administers the Pfizer coronavirus disease (Covid-19) vaccine to a man, amid the spread of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, in Johannesburg, South Africa.

J&J said its need for doses of vaccines produced by Aspen depended on global demand.

“This year, the final quantities and delivery schedules of our vaccine are tailored to the changing needs of countries, based on their vaccination needs and capacity to absorb vaccines at different times,” the company said. .

Nicolaou warned that more critical than J&J’s supply needs was the need to revive orders for Aspen’s own Aspenovax.

The bulk of the company’s Covid-19 production lines were intended to produce Aspenovax for Africa. Its initial plans were to increase annual capacity to 700 million doses by February and further expansion to one billion doses to meet projected demand.

However, its existing Aspenovax production lines are currently idle.

“Of course, we can’t go on with vacant lines indefinitely. And we’ll have to get orders quickly or pivot,” Nicolaou said.

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