Government has said it is expecting four million doses of single-shot Johnson &Johnson Covid-19 vaccine through the African Union as arrangements to manufacture the serum in South Africa get finalised.
Prof David Sserwadda, the head of government advisory committee on Covid-19 vaccine acquisition and deployment, told Daily Monitor yesterday that the vaccine, which will be manufactured in South Africa by Aspen Pharmaceutical Company, will be a game changer.
He said the manufacturer will boost access in a time when the countries, Uganda inclusive, are grappling with access to AstraZeneca vaccine from Serum Institute of India (SII).
“It will be very important for Africa to develop that capacity to manufacture vaccines. It would increase our access to Covid-19 vaccines and also for other countries. In Africa, we still don’t have any company which is manufacturing vaccines,” Prof Sserwdda said.
He added: “But what makes it much more advantageous for Africa is that starting to manufacture vaccines will help Africa to acquire technology not only to manufacture the Covid-19 vaccine, but also other common vaccines used in the continent such as polio, tuberculosis and yellow fever vaccines.”
The continent imports vaccines used in child immunisation and others from developed countries such as Russia and the United Kingdom.
Prof Sserwadda said manufacturing vaccine in the continent will reduce logistic costs.
“If you are moving the vaccine from Johannesburg, it is nearer and it reduces the cost,” he said.
The government has not received Covid-19 vaccines it purchased from SII on the agreed date of March 20.
The State Minister for Health in charge of General Duties, Ms. Robinah Nabbanja, told this newspaper that government was expecting to receive another consignment of AstraZeneca vaccine from SII last month, but it didn’t reach.
“We expected the vaccine to come on March 20, but we were pushed back. We are too many countries in the queue and [so], there is a very high demand for the vaccine,” Ms Nabbanja said.
Government has already acquired 964,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine through donations to inoculate the population.
The Ministry of Health plans to vaccinate 46 per cent of the population, which is about 21.9 million people.
Last week, the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) said it signed a supply deal with Janssen, the developer of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, for supply of 220 million doses of J&J, with a potential to acquire another 180 million doses from the same firm.
The vaccine developer said in a statement last week that the supply is beginning in the “third quarter of 2021,” to boost the continent’s move to stop the virus that has killed almost 121,000 people across Africa and infected 4.18 million.
The vaccines will be made available to African countries through the African Medical Supplies Platform (AMSP), over a period of 18 months, according to African Vaccine Acquisition Trust (AVAT) that signed the agreement on behalf of African Union member states.
Why Johnson & Johnson vaccine
Prof David Sserwadda said the move by AU countries to sign a supply deal for J&J has nothing to do with the side effects of AstraZeneca vaccines which are being reported.
The reason why AU quickly jumped to Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it has the same storage requirements as AstraZeneca vaccine which is 2-8 degrees centigrade.
This makes it much more attractive compared to Pfizer and Mordena which require ultra-low storage temperature (around -60 degrees centigrade,” he said.