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UPDATE 1-S.Africa's Aspen, India's Serum Institute sign vaccines deal for Africa

(Adds detail)

JOHANNESBURG, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Aspen Pharmacare has signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India to manufacture and sell four Aspen-branded vaccines for Africa, as it seeks to utilise its near-idle COVID-19 vaccine production lines in eastern South Africa.

Aspen has a contract with Johnson & Johnson to package its COVID-19 vaccine into vials and earlier this year it extended its agreement to allow it to package, sell and distribute the vaccine under its own brand Aspenovax for Africa.

But it has not received a single order yet for the COVID vaccine and its J&J orders under its previous contract were also "dwindling", putting at risk its 450-million-dose vaccine production line.

Aspen CEO Stephen Saad and other executives told Reuters early in August the company might look at pivoting the COVID vaccine lines to produce anesthetics or other products.

The vaccines under agreement with Serum will include hexavalent, pneumococcal, polyvalent meningococcal and rotavirus, Aspen said in a statement.

"Aspen SA Operations has secured a licence to the enabling know-how from the Serum Institute," it said, adding the two sides might also discuss expanding the agreement to include new products or new versions of products.

Aspen will also contribute towards preparedness for future pandemics through rights to a share of its vaccine manufacturing capacity over a period of 10 years, it said in the statement.

The company is expecting grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations for the same project, it added. (Reporting by Promit Mukherjee; editing by Jason Neely and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)