Africa’s only Covid-19 vaccine production plant, Aspen Pharmacare, might be forced to shut down its operations due to low patronage.
In November 2021, the company based in South Africa obtained a license to repackage and sell Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine for distribution across Africa.
However, it’s since been hit by low demand as Africans don’t seem very keen on taking the Covid-19 vaccine. According to reports, less than one in six-person people within the continent is doubly vaccinated.
In a statement, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said he’s working with his counterparts in Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, and Rwanda to purchase their Covid-19 vaccines from Aspen Pharmacare to save the company from closing shop.
“it has to do with the global network that buys vaccines…’ he said on Wednesday 4. “Myself, together with a number of African presidents… are now forming a real alliance and a plan to make sure that vaccines that would be used on our continent are bought from companies that make vaccines here…”
However, this might not be enough
Aspen’s group senior executive Stavros Nicolau told the BBC that purchases from African governments alone would not be enough to save the Covid vaccine production company in South Africa.
He said that Covax – the UN-backed body instituted to get vaccines to less wealthy countries – did not purchase any of its two billion doses from the continent.
Nicolau said global procurers should do more to buy COVID-19 vaccines from African producers.
In response, the global vaccine alliance, Gavi, responsible for procurement on behalf of Covax, said the demand for vaccines globally is currently low.
A Gavi spokesperson said that while Aspen’s role as the only vaccine plant in the continent is highly commendable, they are “not in a position to order large quantities of vaccines.”
Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) records showed that just 16% of people on the continent are fully vaccinated.
Around the world, vaccination rates continue to drop.
Dr. John Nkengasong, the head of Africa CDC, which oversees the continent’s Corvid response, has argued that buying from African producers “is a political decision.”
Nkengasong, while speaking on BBC’s Newsday said the programme and Africa’s vaccine plant are seen as charity when it should be “part of global strategies to get rid of this and subsequent pandemics.”
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