Aspen Pharmacare executive Nicolaou Stravos says a lack of vaccine orders at its Qqeberha plant could threaten access to vaccines locally and on the rest of the continent.
Speaking to SAfm on Wednesday, he attributed the drying up of orders to Covid-19 vaccine “complacency and fatigue”.
“It’s important that we continue with our vaccination programmes because we’re not out of the woods with this pandemic yet. We don’t know what to expect in future. What we do know is that the most effective way of mitigating the risks is vaccination,” he said.
He said the production line which was repurposed to manufacture vaccines might be shut down if there were no new orders to ensure its sustainability.
If it is shut down, he said this could see the continent scramble for vaccines like it did in the initial stages of the pandemic.
“If we don’t get orders and we’re unable to sustain [the plant] we will have to repurpose it to manufacture other things, but then we need to understand that we will lose that capacity on the continent and we will be back to square one where we were 18 months ago,” he said.
Low vaccination uptake amid the threat of a fifth wave was raised by health minister Joe Phaahla during a media briefing last week. The minister said the uptick in daily infections in other provinces, coupled with low rates of vaccination, was cause for concern.
“The question at the top of our minds is whether we have entered the fifth wave, which is much earlier than predicted,” said Phaahla.
He added that the department would monitor daily infections before issuing a clearer indication on Friday about whether the country has entered the fifth wave.
“The next seven days until May 6 will give a clearer picture of where we are going, whether the fifth wave started earlier without a distinct new variant but driven by sub-variants, or it is an early spike driven by the Easter weekend.”
Aspen Pharmacare’s Covid-19 vaccine production in Gqeberha could close down due to a lack of orders.