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All dressed up and nowhere to go: Aspen flop bodes ill for Africa


All dressed up and nowhere to go: Aspen flop bodes ill for Africa

Continent’s top drug firm did its bit setting up vax production capacity ... only for it not to receive a single order

Janice Kew

Africa’s drive to set up a vaccine industry after being left at the back of the queue in the global scramble for Covid-19 shots has stumbled at the first hurdle.

As the Omicron variant was spreading through SA late last year, the continent’s biggest pharmaceutical company was negotiating a deal to make a Covid-19 vaccine under licence from Johnson & Johnson. Five months later, and after starting production in March, Aspen Pharmacare Holdings hasn’t received a single order. Now it’s considering using the facility to make anaesthetics.

The dearth of business is jarring for Aspen executives and those of other companies setting up vaccine facilities in Africa. Moderna, Pfizer and biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong have all announced plans to produce shots on a continent where just 15.9% of the population of 1.2-billion has completed a coronavirus vaccination course...

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