US, financial partners provide for Covid-19 vaccine production in Africa

THE United States (US), working with the Germans and French, has committed to providing long-term, ‘stable’ financing worth 600 million euros to Aspen Pharmacare to support vaccine production and expand operations across Africa.

This assistance comes at a critical time as Africa has the lowest vaccination rate compared to other continents with only one percent out of 1.1 billion people vaccinated.

Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited is a multinational South African holding company for pharmaceutical concerns, headquartered in Durban and is the largest drug company in Africa.

Through its Development Finance Corporation, the US will partner with the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank, including the German Development Bank (DEG)  and French Development bank (Proparco) to support the Covid-19 pandemic response across Africa.

Speaking at a Digital Press Briefing on US Support for Covid-19 Vaccine Manufacturing and Production in Africa Thursday, Chief Operating Officer of the US International Development Finance Corporation, David Marchick, said this consortium of development finance institutions would provide a direct loan to Aspen PharmaCare to support vaccine production and expand operations.

Marchick said this loan would help increase capacity to support Aspen’s efforts to produce vaccines for the continent this year and next year. 

“This production will help meet the African Union’s goal of 400 million doses of Stringent Regulatory Authorisation or World Health Organisation Emergency Use Listing vaccines, including the Johnson and Johnson Covid-19 vaccine,” he noted.

According to Marchick, this aid was the second manufacturing announcement made in developing countries. 

“We’ve already backed a company in India called Biological E to help them increase capacity and produce at least a billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines by the end of next year, and we have other projects in the works, including in Africa,” he said.

“So this is a critical initiative that will allow Aspen to help ramp up production, have long-term, stable debt, and help fulfil (US) President (Joe) Biden’s goal of ending the pandemic.”

The Chief Operating Officer added they were working with European Union colleagues, whose help was focused not only on driving finance but also on driving capacity and helping to expand the ability of Africa to deal with skills development and tech transfer.

US State Department Coordinator for Global Covid-19 Response and Health Security, Gayle E. Smith, noted Covid-19 vaccines and the urgency of vaccine delivery was top of their agenda right now. 

“For obvious reasons, On that front, we are doing several things.  First, we are the largest donor to COVAX, the international vaccine platform that is delivering all over the world.  Second, President Biden has announced that we are sharing 80 million vaccine doses from our own supply, and we will be sharing more,” she said.

“Those vaccines are now in the process of delivery to various countries and will continue to roll out over the coming days and weeks. The President also announced just prior to the G7 summit that the United States is purchasing and will donate 500 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.”

Last week, Deputy Director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control, Dr Ahmed Ogwell Ouma, tweeted that although pledges had been made to donate Covid-19 vaccines to Africa, zero vaccines had been delivered so far.  

Smith, who also advises President Biden and US Secretary of State (Antony Blinken) on the global Covid-19 response, said they were ‘quite’ concerned about the availability of supply and wanted to ramp up that supply-side fast so many countries as possible can be covered quickly.

“One part of that is urging the major producers to increase their production, and a second, is doing what we can to increase local production so that there’s more available in more places,” she said.

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