Mar 29, 2021 - Health

J&J to supply 400 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to African Union

Photo of a person in a hazmat suit operating a manufacturing station

Photo: Misha Jordaan/Gallo Images via Getty Images

Johnson & Johnson has inked a deal with the African Union (AU) to supply up to 400 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine starting in the third quarter of the year, the drugmaker announced Monday.

Why it matters: Disparities in vaccine access remain a challenge for Africans, especially as the continent struggles to contain the coronavirus variant that originated in South Africa.

  • South Africa has a vaccination rate of 0.3%, and most other African countries are on par with that number. The U.S. maintains a 34.6% vaccination rate, in contrast.
  • The virus has infected 4.18 million people across Africa and killed almost 121,000, according to Reuters.

Details: J&J will deliver 220 million doses of its single-dose shot starting in the July-September quarter. The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) will be able to purchase an additional 180 million doses through 2022.

  • Regulators in African countries must still authorize the vaccine, but the World Health Organization approved it for emergency use earlier this month.
  • Data shows that the vaccine is 85% effective in preventing severe disease and protecting against different variants, including the variant from South Africa, 28 days after vaccination, the company said.
  • Most of the supplies will be produced by Aspen Pharma in South Africa.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Dave Lawler: The shots are to be manufactured mainly in South Africa, which would be a big development because right now there are virtually no shots being produced on the continent. And J&J’s vaccine could be particularly important to developing countries because it's relatively cheap and easy to ship and store, plus just a single shot.

What they're saying: "From the beginning of this pandemic, Johnson & Johnson has recognized that no one is safe until everyone is safe, and we have been committed to equitable, global access to new COVID-19 vaccines," Alex Gorsky, J&J chairman and CEO, said in a statement.

  • "Our support for the COVAX Facility, combined with supplementary agreements with countries and regions, will help accelerate global progress toward ending the COVID-19 pandemic."
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