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U.S. Investment Boosts COVID-19 Vaccine Manufacturing in South Africa

  • South Africa
  • Healthcare

The Challenge:

Access to safe, effective vaccines is critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Vaccines help prevent serious illness, hospitalization, and death. While some countries have widescale vaccination efforts underway, the vast majority of people across the African continent have yet to receive a single shot. In fact, as of August 2021, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that less than three percent of the continent’s population has completed their COVID-19 vaccination. This inequitable vaccine access not only leaves millions vulnerable to COVID-19 complications but also leaves the door open to variants that prolong the pandemic.

“We see this investment as, in the short term, a really valuable response to the urgent need on the continent for vaccines for COVID. But also, and importantly, as a long-term investment in the capacity of the continent to increase its own production of these vital goods so that there’s greater availability and resilience over time. It’s a short-term investment with a long-term vision.”

Gayle Smith U.S. Department of State Coordinator for Global COVID-19 Response and Health Security

The Solution and Impact:

The U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), IFC, the French Development institution Proparco, and DEG – the German development finance institution made a joint investment in Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited. Aspen, a leading pharmaceutical company in South Africa, is playing a major role producing COVID-19 treatment therapies and vaccines in Africa.

The €600 million long-term financing package will help Aspen, Africa’s largest pharmaceutical company, to refinance existing debt and strengthen the company’s balance sheet, supporting Aspen’s operations including production of vaccines, and other therapies in Africa and other emerging markets. Aspen has partnered with Johnson & Johnson to compound, finish, fill and package the Janssen (a Johnson & Johnson company) COVID-19 vaccine at its sterile facility in South Africa. Aspen recently built a fully certified sterile injectables facility at its existing site at Gqeberha, South Africa. With this new facility, Aspen was able to offer Johnson & Johnson filling, finishing and packaging capacity for its COVID-19 vaccine, with the first batches having already been manufactured.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to access this funding package… Aspen’s teams are working tirelessly to optimize production of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for Africa at our manufacturing site in Gqeberha, South Africa. We are actively seeking opportunities to further extend and capacitate COVID-19 vaccine manufacturing at this world class production facility.”

Stephen Saad Aspen’s Group Chief Executive