Aspen may close Covid vaccine line within weeks as talks drag

‘We had counted on, and were assured, that the regional manufacturing platform was critical and would be supported,’ Nicolaou said by phone.
Image: Bloomberg

Aspen Pharmacare Holdings needs clear commitments within weeks from African governments for orders of its Covid-19 vaccine or will recommit that production line to more in-demand anesthetics.

The continent’s biggest drug maker has been let down by the lack of interest in the shots – a locally made version of Johnson & Johnson’s dose, according to head of strategic trade, Stavros Nicolaou.

Read: SA Covid vaccine plant may shut on a lack of orders

“We had counted on, and were assured, that the regional manufacturing platform was critical and would be supported,” Nicolaou said by phone.

Aspen, Aspenovax, Covid-19

Aspen’s manufacturing plant in Gqeberha in the Eastern Cape, which currently makes a locally made version of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine. Image: Supplied

“We had banked on these initial volumes to give us the time to enable us to pivot to other vaccines.”

Aspen is only making a “trickle” of coronavirus vaccines off the line, said Nicolaou, and has not had any orders for its own-branded shot earmarked for sale directly in Africa.

The situation is a setback for Africa’s plans to catch up with more developed countries’ Covid-19 vaccination rates, and prepare for the possibility of future pandemics.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had been part of a movement that criticised rich nations for hoarding vaccines and tried to force pharmaceutical companies to share inoculation recipes, though take up remains relatively low.

Aspen CEO sees own-brand Covid vaccine as step to new products
Stop hoarding Covid vaccines, Ramaphosa tells rich countries

Aspen understands that African countries now have more shots than they have been able to administer, keeping the line open for the newly-named Aspenovax vaccine may not make economic sense if orders are not imminent, Nicolaou said.

John Nkengasong, director of Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, has said talks about how to raise demand for Covid-19 vaccines are underway and has appealed to African countries to place orders with local manufacturers.

“The reality is that if Aspen cannot obtain production, what hope is there for others?” Nicolaou said.

© 2022 Bloomberg


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When African countries said they wanted Covid-19 vaccines, you must have misunderstood that they want to pay for them.

They don’t want to pay for them. They want to guilt trip the west into giving them free as “Africa is again being left behind”.

These are not prospective customers. These are parasites that want to piggy back and live off the work of others.

Why is Aspen moaning? Who literally assured you, of what? You either had orders and deposits (clear commitments), or you did not. If you did not, you speculated.

Africa, excluding South Africa was barely touched by covid. The average age on the continent is under 23 – hardly a high risk demographic, surely this should have gone into your risk assessment when rolling out this production line?

Relying on a forced vaccination programme (mandates) to be successful, is hardly sound reasoning for a large investment, when it is a well known fact that there is widespread scepticism out there amongst the young. Most African countries lose more people in 2 weeks from Malaria than they did in the 2 years from the pandemic.

This is the same Stavros Nicolau that is on the B4SA Board that has been strongly advocating vaccine mandates in the workplace. Nice being able to form a non-profit to serve your real vaccine business! B4SA has no credibility left after the shennanigans they were up to during Covid to try and make more money for their founders. I guess B4SA has no power to push for vaccine mandates in other African countries?

End of comments.




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