Aspen Pharmacare expects first locally produced J&J jabs to hit SA next week

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is a key component of the nation's mass vaccination campaign as it's easy to store and administer and is a single shot solution.

FILE: In this file photo taken on 5 March 2021 registered nurse Florisa N. Lingad holds a Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination center established at the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport Hotel in Chicago, Illinois. Picture: AFP

CAPE TOWN - Aspen Pharmacare expects the first locally produced Johnson & Johnson vaccine doses to hit South Africa by next week.

The J&J vaccine is a key component of the nation's mass vaccination campaign as it's easy to store and administer and is a single-shot solution.

But the rollout hit a major snag in April when the US Food and Drug Administration identified possible contamination during the production of the vaccine's drug substance at a US plant.

The Aspen Pharmacare facility in Gqerberha uses this raw material to complete the manufacturing of the vaccine on home soil but due to the FDA finding, had to discard two million doses of the vaccine.

South Africa is due to receive a total of 30 million doses of the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for its commercial inoculation drive.

Aspen Pharmacare's executive Stavros Nicolaou said that the first batches of J&J shots should be available in the coming days.

"The replacement doses, if I can call it that, will become available starting from next week, into the next week and the one thereafter."

Some of these will come from the Gqerberha plant and some from the United States.

In light of the suspected contamination picked up by the FDA, Nicolaou said that stringent quality checks were in place to ensure that the vaccines were safe and that the component in question was now coming from new sources.

"So we don't foresee any problems moving forward because this is supply from a different facility and this is a supply that is not suspected to be contaminated."

Healthcare workers who've already received a J&J jab as part of the Sisonke Study have also been urged not to panic as they were not inoculated with the vaccine from the Baltimore plant.

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