Wednesday, 11 November 2020 21:36

Staff Writer.

President Cyril Ramaphosa says a local company, Aspen Pharmacare, has entered into a preliminary agreement with the multinational firm Johnson & Johnson, as one of the companies to manufacture and package its candidate COVID-19 vaccine.

"In recognition of the country’s manufacturing capability, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the world, Johnson & Johnson, has entered into a preliminary agreement with a local company, Aspen Pharmacare, to manufacture and package its candidate vaccine,"the President said.

Updating the nation on South Africa's response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday evening, the President said Aspen has capacity to manufacture 300 million doses of the candidate vaccine at its Nelson Mandela Bay plant.

"This … life-saving medical product that will be needed across the world, which will be manufactured by South African workers,"he said.

South Africa is collaborating with several multinational pharmaceutical companies to obtain a safe and effective vaccine for the people and is contributing towards the availability of the vaccine on the rest of the continent.

He said this is in addition to the progress made by Biovac, a local biopharmaceutical company that is in partnership with the South African government.

The President said earlier this week, the world witnessed a game-changer in the world of science regarding the development of a vaccine.

He said this is the first evidence that an effective vaccine against the Coronavirus is possible.

"And that the preliminary data from the research suggests that it may be more than 90% effective.

"This changes our perspective of the future of the Coronavirus pandemic. This development brings new hope in our fight against this virus."

He said an effective and safe vaccine is the world’s greatest defence against COVID-19, and there are now several candidate vaccines in development across the world.

"Equitable access to an effective vaccine is vital to the successful containment of this pandemic.

"We are working through the African Centres for Disease Control and Prevention to acquire and fund a vaccine for the African continent.

"It is estimated that Africa will need around $12 billion and 750 million doses of an effective vaccine."

Earlier this week, in his capacity as Chairperson of the African Union, the President established the COVID-19 African Vaccine Acquisition Task Team to lead this effort.

"Our Minister of Health will serve on this task team, together with other outstanding citizens of our continent."

South Africa has also been appointed as a co-chair of the global ACT-A initiative that is facilitating access to innovative interventions – including vaccines – for all countries.

He said countries are going to have to allocate funding so that there can be access to vaccines to prevent the further spread of the Coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Government has decided that from the 25th to 29th of November, the nation should embark on five days of mourning for the victims of COVID-19.

"We will let the national flag fly at half-mast throughout the country from 6am to 6pm from Wednesday 25 November to Sunday 29 November," Ramaphosa said.

"We call upon all South Africans to wear a black armband or other signs of mourning to signify our respect for those who have departed.

"We call upon all South Africans to demonstrate their solidarity and do this in remembrance of our countrymen and women, in recognition of the grief that we share as a nation, and as an affirmation of our determination to overcome this devastating disease."