South Africa will dispose of 2 million Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines following a U.S. ruling that ingredients for the country’s doses may have been contaminated during production in a plant in Baltimore, according to President Cyril Ramaphosa.
The news marks a major setback in the country’s vaccine rollout just as a third wave of infections is gathering pace. However, Aspen Pharmacare Holdings, Africa’s largest drugmaker, is set to begin the production of new J&J vaccines by mid-week, Ramaphosa told reporters Sunday after he participated in the G-7 summit. He joined the meetings at the invitation of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
South Africa is heavily reliant on the J&J vaccine to meet a target of inoculating two-thirds of its 60 million people this year, having ordered more than 31 million of the single-dose shot. Aspen has a contract to fill and package the doses at a factory in the coastal town of Gqebherha until recently known as Port Elizabeth.
Ramaphosa also called for equitable access to vaccines and urged G-7 nations to support the proposed Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights waiver to address and engage in negotiations that would allow for the rapid and widespread production of medical products in Africa and across the world. Leaders have committed to support waiver talks at the World Trade Organization and the text is being negotiated, he said.