US drugmaker Pfizer is set to supply Africa’s top health body with its Covid antiviral pill Paxlovid.
Paperwork for the deal between the Africa Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and Pfizer is now in the hands of the African Union’s legal office – after which a formal announcement will be made, Africa CDC director John Nkengasong was quoted as saying by the BBC.
Nkengasong urged health ministries to adopt robust measures spanning vaccines and testing. He added that the Africa CDCA is also seeking Merck’s molnupiravir pill.
This comes days after Moderna signed a deal with Kenya to build its first mRNA facility. Johnson & Johnson has also inked a pact with South African drugmaker Aspen to sell, package and distribute its Covid shots.
In February, researchers at the World Health Organisation-backed Africa’s first Covid mRNA vaccine technology-transfer hub made microlitres of the vaccine based on Moderna’s Covid shot.
The aim was to scale up vaccine production to address those massive shortfalls in the developing world. So far, roughly 12 per cent of people in Africa are fully vaccinated, well below the World Health Organization’s 70 per cent vaccination threshold.
Expressing concern about countries where vaccination rates were still very low, Nkengasong said African countries should be using a combination of public health measures, vaccines, and testing to overcome the Covid this year, Aljazeera reported.
“These molecules have a very unique role to play in a campaign to fight against this terrible pandemic,” he was quoted as saying, citing the Pfizer pill.
Studies by the pharma giant have shown that Paxlovid is effective against all Covid strains, particularly to the highly contagious and vaccine evading Omicron variant. CEO Albert Bourla estimates that the pills can avert 1,200 deaths and 6,000 hospitalisations for every 100,000 Covid patients who take the pills.
Both Paxlovid and molnupiravir have shown to reduce the chances of hospitalisation or death from Covid-19 in high-risk patients by 89 per cent and 30 per cent respectively. The pills should be taken early, within 3-5 days of getting Covid, and require several pills, multiple times a day for five days.