UPDATE 1-Africa CDC hopeful Aspen will get COVID vaccine orders

·2 min read

(Recasts with quotes from Africa CDC)

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Africa's top public health body said on Thursday it was hopeful South African pharmaceutical firm Aspen Pharmacare would get orders for its own brand COVID-19 vaccine.

Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said last month that it is in detailed discussions with buyers to generate demand for Aspen's COVID-19 vaccine Aspenovax.

Just one fifth of adults in Africa are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but demand has fallen across the continent which already receives donated vaccines from Western countries and has supplies to hand from earlier purchases.

"We are quite confident that we will be able to get some positive results out of the negotiations that are continuing," Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, Acting Director of Africa CDC, told reporters on Thursday.

Aspen currently produces vaccines for Johnson & Johnson but it struck a deal in March to produce, price, and sell its own-brand version of the shot for African markets.

However, it has not received any orders for the vaccine to date and the company told Reuters on Wednesday that its vaccine production lines, with a 450-million-dose annual production capacity, could soon be idled, or converted to produce anesthetics and other sterile products.

"We as Africa CDC, the African Union, we do not want to see a situation where Aspen closes any of their manufacturing capacity to (produce) COVID-19 vaccines," Ouma said, declining to give a timeline on possible orders for Aspen.

Ouma said Africa CDC wants every manufacturing facility on the continent that is manufacturing any health product, particularly vaccines, to have buyers from and for the continent.

"Any closure (of manufacturing capacity) will not be good for the continent, will not be good for health security globally," he said. (Reporting by Promit Mukherjee in Johannesburg and Bhargav Acharya in Bengaluru, editing by Mark Heinrich, Kirsten Donovan)