Vaccines to be sourced from Aspen Pharmacare in SA


The government has begun the process of obtaining COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson and Johnson following a recent decision by the firm to engage South Africa’s Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Limited to manufacture the vaccines for delivery in mid-May.

The Botswana Gazette has established that the P20 million is part of P120 million budgeted for procurement of COVID-19 vaccines. Sources say the decision was taken after it became known that the J&J vaccine would soon be manufactured in neighbouring South Africa in order for the continent’s most industrialized country to assist other African countries, thus “reducing costs associated with buying it from Europe”.

“Government had initially decided to procure AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines but there has been a change of mind on Government Enclave,” the source said.

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Kabelo Ebineng, recently said Botswana was expecting 130 800 doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including vaccines made by AstraZeneca and Pfizer.

Aspen agreed in November last year to produce as many as 300 million doses a year at its plant in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. It has been reported that Aspen’s heft could help a continent with otherwise limited vaccine manufacturing capacity and alleviate some concerns that poorer nations may be left without supplies due to huge demand from richer countries.

Meanwhile, Botswana received a consignment of 30 000 doses of India’s Covishield vaccine last week, two weeks ahead of the expected arrival time of the Covax Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines earlier announced by health minister Edwin Dikoloti.

The consignment is seen a much-needed intervention to stem the country’s surging infection rate that stood at 29 000 positive cases and a death toll of 350 on Monday this week.

Dr Dikoloti recently told Parliament that Botswana is guided by recommendations of the World Health Organization, the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in addition to its own due diligence on different vaccines.