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Aspen’s Covid Flop Bodes Ill for Africa Vaccine Making Drive

  • Continent’s biggest drug company got no orders for Covid shot
  • Drugmaker had been reassured there would be enough demand
A worker monitors the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine production line at the Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. plant in Gqeberha, South Africa.
A worker monitors the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine production line at the Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. plant in Gqeberha, South Africa.Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
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Africa’s drive to set up a vaccine industry after being left at the back of the queue in the global scramble for Covid-19 shots has stumbled at the first hurdle.

As the omicron variant was spreading through South Africa late last year, the continent’s biggest pharmaceutical company was negotiating a deal to make a Covid-19 vaccine under license from Johnson & Johnson. Five months later, and after starting production in March, Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. hasn’t received a single order. Now it’s considering using the facility to make anesthetics.