Johnson & Johnson announced the completion of a landmark agreement between Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., part of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, and manufacturer Aspen SA Operations (Pty) Ltd, based in South Africa, to enable the first COVID-19 vaccine to be manufactured and made available by an African company for people living in Africa, with the goal of increasing COVID-19 vaccination rates across the continent.
Martin Fitchet, M.D., Head of Global Public Health, Johnson & Johnson, Cilag GmbH International commented:
From the outset of this pandemic we aimed to develop a simple-to-use and accessible vaccine that could be transported around the world through standard vaccine distribution channels. We initiated clinical trials in all regions of the world to generate evidence across multiple geographies and diverse, at-risk populations and forged a strategic partnership with Aspen in Africa and others to manufacture our vaccine globally. We’re proud to take our long-standing collaboration with Aspen to the next level, to continue to address the COVID-19 threat and lay the groundwork for a healthier, more secure future for people in Africa.
The agreement enables Aspen, using COVID-19 vaccine drug substance supplied by Johnson & Johnson, to produce Aspen-branded “Aspenovax” finished vaccine and make doses available to the public sector in Africa, including all 55 Member States of the African Union and key multilateral entities supporting Africa’s COVID-19 vaccination drive, inclusive of the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT), and the COVAX Facility.
Stephen Saad, Aspen Group Chief Executive said:
With the conclusion of this agreement, our vision for Africa’s own vaccine has become a reality. This has been achieved through tremendous teamwork and collaboration between Johnson & Johnson and Aspen. Through this agreement and their earlier actions, Johnson & Johnson has demonstrated its commitment to our continent. Initially by choosing Aspen, located in Africa, as a core manufacturing partner, and then by showing resolve and dedication to a technical transfer process during the most stringent lockdown periods of the COVID outbreak.
Expanding global vaccination coverage is critically important to controlling the COVID-19 pandemic and reducing the risk of emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants. Currently, only about 12 percent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, which is well below the World Health Organization’s target of 70 percent population coverage for all countries. The Agreement endures until 31 December 2026.