EU to return Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccines made in Africa

The announcement came with Africa struggling to immunise its people against Covid-19.
The announcement came with Africa struggling to immunise its people against Covid-19.PHOTO: REUTERS

NAIROBI (AFP) - The European Union has agreed to send millions of coronavirus vaccine doses made in South Africa back to the continent, an African Union envoy said on Thursday (Sept 2).

South Africa's Aspen Pharmacare, which produces the Johnson & Johnson vaccine under a contract with the US pharma giant, will also stop sending doses to Europe, Strive Masiyiwa told reporters at an online briefing.

The announcement came with Africa struggling to immunise its people against Covid-19, partly because of a lack of supply and widespread vaccine hesitancy.

"All the vaccines produced at Aspen will stay in Africa and be distributed to Africa," the African Union's special Covid envoy said, adding that Aspen's arrangement to export the doses to Europe had been "suspended".

"This issue has been corrected and corrected in a very positive way." The announcement followed a meeting in Berlin between South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and European Commission President Ursula Von der Leyen, he said, adding that the first supplies were expected this month.

"In addition the Europeans committed to give us 200 million doses before the end of December," Masiyiwa said at the briefing by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

At the same news conference, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong said that the number of people who have been fully immunised against coronavirus on the continent was about 2.93 percent.

Also on Thursday, the World Health Organisation warned that most African countries were likely to miss the "crucial" goal of vaccinating the most vulnerable 10 per cent of their populations against Covid-19 by the end of the month.