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UPDATE 2-J&J to send S.Africa more than 300,000 vaccine doses, says Aspen

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·2 min read
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* Aspen boss says supply of half a million doses imminent

* Says Aspen will be reimbursed for 2 mln discarded doses

* Aspen targets steady flow of supply from July (Adds detail from interview with Aspen CEO)

By Promit Mukherjee

JOHANNESBURG, June 14 (Reuters) - Johnson & Johnson (J&J) will export more ready-to-administer COVID-19 vaccines to South Africa beyond the 300,000 doses already pledged, the CEO of Aspen Pharmacare said on Monday.

South African regulator SAHPRA on Sunday said that J&J would supply the country with 300,000 finished doses of its COVID-19 vaccine in the next few days as a means to compensate for a loss of 2 million ready doses that Aspen, J&J's local contract manufacturer, will have to destroy.

The watchdog's statement came a day after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) asked the global pharmaceuticals giant to destroy millions of doses of its vaccine because of contamination found at one of its suppliers.

J&J will be supplying finished doses in addition to the 300,000 over the next few weeks, Aspen CEO Stephen Saad told Reuters.

Aspen imports the drug substance from J&J and readies it for supply in what is known as a fill and finish process.

J&J has not officially announced the supply figures and did not respond immediately to an emailed request for comment.

Between J&J's additional exports and Aspen's supply, the 2 million lost doses will be more than covered, Saad added.

The decision to discard 2 million vaccine doses was considered a major setback for South Africa's vaccination drive because it leaves the country reliant on the two-dose vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

Saad said his company will be reimbursed for the discarded doses and that the vaccination drive can pick up pace with the arrival of more than half a million doses of J&J's single-shot vaccine in the next week through Aspen's supplies and J&J's pledged 300,000 doses.

Aspen will be able to maintain a steady flow of vaccines from July, he said, adding that the 2 million lost doses could affect its timeline for supply to the whole of Africa.

Saad also said that Aspen intends to ramp up production to 800,000 vaccine doses per day in the near future, equating to 25 million a month. (Reporting by Promit Mukherjee Editing by Emma Rumney and David Goodman )

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