Johnson & Johnson to supply 400 million Covid-19 shots to African Union

By John Bowker

(Bloomberg) – Johnson & Johnson agreed to supply as many as 400 million Covid-19 vaccines to the African Union through the end of next year, delivering a boost to a continent trailing most of the world in the race to inoculate against the disease.

The U.S. drugmaker can make available as many as 220 million doses of its single-shot candidate to the AU’s 55 member states starting in the third quarter of 2021, according to a statement on Monday. A further 180 million could then be delivered the following year. The pact follows agreements with AstraZeneca Plc, Pfizer Inc. and the makers of Russia’s Sputnik v vaccine.

“No one is safe until everyone is safe, and we have been committed to equitable, global access to new Covid-19 vaccines,” J&J Chief Executive Officer Alex Gorsky said in the statement.

While the J&J vaccine has started to receive approval in some countries around the world, the delivery commitment to the AU will depend on regulatory backing from member nations. The dose’s requirement for just a single shot is seen as beneficial for Africa, where distribution is likely to present a major challenge.

South Africa has already started administering the vaccine to health workers as part of a medical trial, and J&J agreed last year that Aspen Pharmacare Holdings Ltd. can manufacture doses in the country.

J&J in December signed a separate agreement to supply the global program known as Covax with as many as 500 million doses of its shot. The company said at the time that it expected to provide 100 million doses of its vaccine in 2021 as part of the initial accord with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, one of the partners in Covax.

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