Aspen Pharmacare to make its own COVID-19 vaccine brand

Amid fourth wave concerns fuelled by the Omicron variant, local pharma company Aspen signs historic deal.

South African pharmaceutical heavyweight Aspen has announced it had concluded a licensing agreement with Johnson & Johnson that will see the local firm produce its own COVID-19 vaccine brand. Announced on Tuesday, the non-binding agreement would see the pair extend an existing deal and once concluded, will see Aspen package and fill vials of Pfizer’s vaccine locally. Per the terms of the agreement, Aspen would be granted rights to ‘manufacture finished SARS-CoV-2 COVID-19 vaccine product from drug substance supplied by Johnson & Johnson and sell the finished form vaccine under Aspen branding to public sector markets in Africa through transactions with designated multilateral organizations and with national governments of member states of the African Union'. The vaccine is to be branded and sold by Aspen as ‘Aspenovax’.

The agreement is expected to run until 31 December 2026 and will include the option to manufacture additional versions such as those developed for new variants or for use as booster shots. “Africa remains vaccine constrained, preventing an effective response to the need to protect Africans against the virus,” said Aspen CEO Stephen Saad. Aspen, which is the continent’s largest drugmaker has the capacity to manufacture about 300 million doses of the vaccine. It also plans to increase capacity to more than 700 million by 2023. The news come as the country is battling a surge in new cases fuelled by the Omicron variant, with Gauteng seen as the epicentre of the fourth wave, and with developed nations coming under fire for imposing travel restrictions on Southern African countries.