By Johnson & Johnson
Johnson & Johnson has announced the completion of a landmark agreement between Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 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.
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.
Our response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been guided by the conviction that unless everyone is safe, no one is safe, which is why we worked to develop and deliver a vaccine that can protect the health of everyone, everywhere.
“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,” said Martin Fitchet, M.D., Head of Global Public Health, Johnson & Johnson, Cilag GmbH International. “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.”
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To date, Johnson & Johnson has shipped more than 200 million vaccine doses to Africa through a combination of our advance purchase agreements with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, South Africa and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, on behalf of the COVAX Facility, along with government donations. As one of our contract manufacturers since November 2020, Aspen has been a significant supplier within the Johnson & Johnson global network.
The agreement enables Aspen, using COVID-19 vaccine drug substance supplied by Johnson & Johnson, to produce Aspen-branded 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.
“With the conclusion of this agreement, our vision for Africa’s own vaccine has become a reality,” said Stephen Saad, Aspen Group Chief Executive. “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.”
Johnson & Johnson’s Equitable Response to COVID-19
A commitment to global equity has guided the Company’s response since the beginning of the pandemic, starting with the decision to pursue a vaccine that can provide protection with a single dose and be easily stored and distributed with standard refrigeration globally, including in resource-limited, rural or remote settings.
Johnson & Johnson supported the development of its vaccine with a truly global and inclusive clinical research program that studied the vaccine across the U.S., Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America as we sought to generate evidence across multiple geographies and diverse, at-risk populations, including in resource-limited settings. We complemented this by supporting a large-scale implementation study for our vaccine in South Africa. The “Sisonke” study made the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine available to 500,000 frontline healthcare workers across the country.