Nairobi – South African pharmaceutical company Aspen has started production of hundreds of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccine for African countries. To speed up the process, the company receives significant funding from the US government.
Speaking at a virtual press briefing Thursday, Mark Marchick, a senior executive with the US International Development Financial Corporation, said Aspen would receive around $ 712 million to produce a vaccine for people in Africa.
“Our consortium of development finance institutions would provide a direct loan to Aspen, among others, to strengthen their balance sheet with long-term funding, support vaccine production and expand their operations with core operations based in South Africa. This loan will help them increase the capacity to support Aspen’s efforts to produce vaccines for the continent this year and next, ”Marchik said.
Gayle Smith, the US State Department’s coordinator for the global response to COVID-19, said the investment will help Africa cope with long-term health challenges.
“We see this investment as a truly viable short-term response to the continent’s urgent need for COVID vaccines and also, most importantly, as a long-term investment in the continent’s ability to increase its own production of this vaccine. vital assets so there is greater availability and resilience over time, so it’s a short-term investment with a long-term vision, ”said Smith.
It is estimated that the world needs at least 11 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to at least help communities return to normal life. So far, less than 2% of Africans have received a vaccine.
The need for the vaccine has prompted criminals to exploit Africa’s weak regulatory systems to import junk and substandard drugs.
In November, officers from South Africa’s Customs and Crime Unit seized 2,400 fake doses of the COVID-19 vaccine. Zambian and Chinese nationals were arrested.
In January of this year, the Nigerian Food and Drug Administration advised the public to be aware of the bad actors pushing fake vaccines.
Adebayo Alonge, director of RxAll, an organization fighting counterfeiting and substandard pharmaceuticals in Africa using artificial intelligence technology, said African governments need systems to distribute and track effectively the vaccine.
“They may have selected sites across the country where people can go to get vaccinated. People pre-book online or via text message and register people who have come to get vaccinated at those places,” Alonge said.
Aspen, which is based in the city of Durban, is expected to produce 400 million doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. Distribution will begin in the coming weeks.