Tuesday, Oct 04, 2022

EU says import of J&J Covid-19 vaccines from Africa is only temporary, after WHO boss ‘stunned’ by news

EU says import of J&J Covid-19 vaccines from Africa is only temporary, after WHO boss ‘stunned’ by news

A spokesperson for the European Commission has said that a deal to import Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines from South Africa is only temporary, amid concern that the EU is depriving Africans of crucial shots.
On Thursday, a spokesperson for the EU executive said an agreement with South Africa had been reached for the delivery of J&J vaccines after production problems came to light at its US-based manufacturer, Emergent BioSolutions, that impacted the EU’s supply chain.

The spokesperson stated that under the deal with South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare, the firm will undertake bottling operations before transporting the product to the EU.

However, the EU insisted the arrangement would not last beyond September when all bottling operations will be transferred to a J&J factory in Leiden, the Netherlands, which is a major producer of its vaccine substance.

The New York Times reported the story on Monday, citing a secret document between the US drugs giant and the South African government that prevented Pretoria from imposing restrictions on vaccine exports.

It is not clear what the bloc intends to do with the South African-supplied doses. The Aspen facility in South Africa does not appear to be listed as an approved production site by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for J&J vaccines, meaning the shots cannot be used in the EU.

The J&J vaccine has the lowest take-up among all shots approved for use in the EU. Of the 12.9 million delivered doses, only around 60% have been administered, according to EU data.

On Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “stunned” by the news that the EU was taking vaccines from the African continent. The WHO boss has repeatedly called on wealthy governments to ensure equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines with poorer nations, notably those in Africa where vaccine coverage is particularly low.

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