The Minister of Health, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, has hailed the development announced by Aspen Pharmacare to partner with Johnson & Johnson to manufacture, package and distribute the COVID-19 candidate vaccine (Ad26COV2-S) once it has been successfully registered in South Africa by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA).

The Johnson & Johnson candidate vaccine is currently in phase three clinical trial (ENSEMBLE trial) worldwide and preparations are under way to commence recruitment in South Africa of over 10 000 participants across various provinces, and in locations with a high incidence of COVID-19, subject to SAHPRA and ethics approval.

As the world continues to grapple with the novel Coronavirus and we witness fresh lockdowns in Europe, the need for accelerating research, development and access to COVID-19 tools, particularly lifesaving vaccines, is now becoming increasingly urgent.

Throughout the pandemic, government has placed emphasis on building local capability for innovation, manufacturing and commercialization of tools to mitigate against the devastating effects of public health threats. We are therefore extremely excited to see business answering this call as patriots of South Africa, optimizing our ability to access critical lifesaving tools, such as vaccines, for our people.

South Africa has been proactive in its quest for access to COVID-19 tools: we have been involved in the Solidarity Trial which has already advanced our understanding of the efficacy of some candidate therapeutics and case management strategies; we have played an integral role by enrolling members of our population into the vaccine trials; and we have taken a leadership role in the ACT- Accelerator, a global multilateral programme, to ensure equitable and expedient access to COVID-19 tools for all nations. This accomplishment by Aspen will not only benefit South Africa, but indeed all of Africa as we endeavor to ensure that no African country gets left behind in the
fight against COVID-19.

The Minister has extended his congratulations to Aspen for this critical initiative as the results of the vaccine trials are eagerly anticipated to show promising results