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Europe to Return J&J Covid Shots to Africa

07.09.2021 - Doses of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine made at Aspen Pharmacare’s facility in South Africa and shipped to Europe to fill contractual obligations will now be sent back to Africa, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has reported.

The exports to the EU, totaling around 20 million doses, were intended to make up for a shortfall caused by the shutdown of the Emergent Solutions plant in the US state of Maryland. This arrangement, however, was sharply criticized when revealed in mid-August. J&J has reportedly earmarked 31 million vaccine doses for Africa, with very little of this having arrived.

Strive Masiyiwa, who heads the African Union’s Vaccine Acquisition Task Team, told the US business newspaper that the EU had agreed to return the doses during a meeting between European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and South African president Cyril Ramaphosa last week. As part of the deal, the EU also will not take the doses from the Aspen plant it was expecting in September, Masiyiwa said.

Aspen is currently in discussions with J&J about a licensing agreement that would supplant its current contract production deal and allow the CDMO to manufacture and sell the single-dose vaccine in Africa. The arrangement reportedly would be similar to AstraZeneca’s deal with India’s Serum Institute.

Estimates of how many of Africa’s 1.3 billion people have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 bounce between under 3% and over 7%.  In any case, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned last week that 42 of the continent’s 54 countries will probably miss a target of vaccinating at least 10% of their citizens by the end of September.

Author: Dede Williams, Freelance Journalist

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