Controversy is mounting over reports that Johnson and Johnson has been exporting millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses that are bottled and packaged in South Africa for distribution in Europe.

This is according to export records that the New York Times says it has seen from Johnson and Johnson, manufacturer Aspen Pharmacare, as well as the South African government.

Johnson and Johnson agreed to sell enough of its inexpensive single-shot vaccine to eventually inoculate a third of the continent’s residents.

The vaccine will be produced in part by South Africa’s Aspen Phamacare, a move that has raised hopes that the doses will quickly go to Africans.

South Africa is also reportedly paying more for the vaccines compared to countries in the European Union.

Doctor Stavros Nicolaou, Group Senior Executive at Aspen Phamacare, says they have no control over how much Johnson and Johnson choose to charge for vaccines.

“Aspen is a contract manufacturer for Johnson and Johnson. It does not control the doses being allocated or the pricing for the vaccines. We just fill and finish the product and then Johnson and Johnson determines what follows thereafter. Of course, we would have liked all of the production to stay in Africa.”

Meanwhile, Professor Mary-Ann Davies, Director of the UCT Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Research, says Health Minister Joe Phaahla’s announcement that the vaccination of 18-year-olds may start this week should be welcomed.

She says this is because there’s now evidence of more severe COVID-19 infections among younger people.

First supplies of locally produced J&J vaccine to be released from Aspen factory: