About 30 million J&J vaccines to be produced at Aspen facility - Ramaphosa

Ramaphosa was speaking on the side-lines of an inspection of the institution in Gqeberha on Monday afternoon.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Abigail Javier/Eyewitness News.

JOHANNESBURG – President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced South Africa will have access to about 30 million Johnson and Johnson vaccines, which will be produced at the Aspen manufacturing facility in the Eastern Cape.

Ramaphosa was speaking on the side-lines of an inspection of the institution in Gqeberha on Monday afternoon.

The company is hoped to be able to bolster the country's fight against COVID-19 by assisting in the production of vaccines.

He said South Africa must position itself to be able to receive doses produced in the country.

The visit comes on the backdrop of criticism that government has bungled the country's inoculation programme due to a lack of planning.

Ramaphosa said there was a need for urgency in the administration of vaccines across the country.

“This Aspen belongs to us as South Africans and it is making life-saving vaccines and we as South Africa must be in pole position to be able to get vaccines that are manufactured here.”

Ramaphosa said pressure had been applied to COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers to ensure that the country received the doses it needed as fast as possible.

The globe is racing against time to bring the pandemic, which has claimed more than 2.7 million lives, under control.

With pressure mounting for the country to implement a large-scale inoculation plan the president said talks were under way with all those involved.

“We intervened to put a bit of a push on the Johnson and Johnson people and said, ‘we need you to finalise the full commitment to South Africa and the rest of the continent.’”

Ramaphosa was scant around timelines but said progress was being made.

“We are pleased with the outcome of that intervention, which had led to Johnson and Johnson finally saying yes and confirming that they will produce 220 million vaccines for the entire continent of Africa for starters.”

With more than 230,000 healthcare workers have been inoculated in the country as part of Johnson and Johnson's implementation study, government has now admitted that will is likely to miss its own targets.

Sixty-seven percent of the population was initially scheduled to be vaccinated by the end of this year, but officials now say this target was only likely to be reach by February next year.

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