Aspen Pharmacare Holdings will supply the Covid-19 vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson within the next three months, putting Africa’s biggest drugmaker “right up front of producing this vaccine globally,” chief executive officer Stephen Saad said.
Since agreeing in November to produce as many as 300 million doses a year at its plant in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Aspen has adopted the technology needed for production, Saad said in an interview Friday.
The company has sufficient capacity to more than double that output if needed, he said.
Next, Aspen needs to produce three batches identical to the end product. Once that target is met, Aspen can apply for registration and then sell its supply of the J&J vaccine, which received clearance in the European Union this week after an emergency use authorization in the US.
Aspen’s heft could help a continent with otherwise limited vaccine manufacturing capacity and alleviate some concerns that poorer nations will be left without supplies due to the huge demand from richer countries.
South Africa is “in a great position as a country around procurement of vaccines because of what Aspen can offer,” Saad said.
The company, which on Thursday said it plans to resume paying dividends after a two-year break enforced by debt levels, is now in a position to make acquisitions.
Any purchases would be “additive rather than transformative,” Saad said. Aspen would look at countries or business areas in which it already operates, including buying sterile products, which are mostly used in hospitals, or a vaccine, he said.