Health minister Zweli Mkhize has praised Aspen Pharmacare’s plans to partner with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture, package and distribute a candidate Covid-19 vaccine locally, once it was successfully registered in the country.
Earlier this week, the pharmaceutical group announced the Covid-19 vaccine would be produced at its existing sterile facility in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape.
Aspen said its subsidiary Pharmacare Limited, which trades as Aspen Pharmacare, entered into a preliminary agreement with two pharmaceutical companies of Johnson & Johnson.
Mkhize said the candidate vaccine (Ad26COV2-S) was in phase three clinical trials worldwide.
He said preparations were underway to recruit more than 10,000 participants across SA in locations with a high incidence of Covid-19 to take part in the trials, subject to SA Health Products Regulatory Authority and ethics approval.
“As the world continues to grapple with the novel coronavirus and we witness fresh lockdowns in Europe, the need for accelerating research, development and access to Covid-19 tools, particularly life-saving vaccines, is becoming increasingly urgent,” said Mkhize.
“Throughout the pandemic, government has placed emphasis on building local capability for innovation, manufacturing and commercialisation of tools to mitigate against the devastating effects of public health threats.
“We are therefore extremely excited to see business answering this call as patriots of SA, optimising our ability to access critical life-saving tools, such as vaccines, for our people,” he said.
Mkhize said the country had been proactive in its quest for access to Covid-19 tools and was involved in the Solidarity Trial which had advanced “our understanding of the efficacy of some candidate therapeutics and case management strategies”.
“We have played an integral role by enrolling members of our population into the vaccine trials and we have taken a leadership role in the ACT-Accelerator, a global multilateral programme to ensure equitable and expedient access to Covid-19 tools for all nations.
“This accomplishment by Aspen will not only benefit SA, but all of Africa as we endeavour to ensure no African country gets left behind in the fight against Covid-19.”