AFRICA – Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC), a public health agency of the African Union, has partnered with pharmaceutical corporation Pfizer to supply the firm’s antiviral COVID-19 pill Paxlovid across the continent.

The partnership comes after new data from a mid to late stage study in November showed that Paxlovid was nearly 90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths compared to placebo in adults at high risk of severe illness.

The agreement follows the recent decision of the World Health Organization (WHO) panel to support the use of molnupiravir for high-risk patients such as the immunocompromised, the unvaccinated, older people and those with chronic diseases.

Molnupiravir is prescribed under the care of a health care provider as four 200mg tablets to be administered orally twice a day for five days within 5 days of symptom onset to prevent hospitalization.

The Memorandum of Understanding with Pfizer is with the legal office at the African Union and once the agreement is cleared, we will formally make an announcement and provide further details,” said John Nkengasong, Head of Africa CDC.

John Nkengasong disclosed that the agency is also in discussions with pharmaceutical company Merck about obtaining supplies of its molnupiravir COVID-19 pill for treating non-severe coronavirus in people who are at high risk of being hospitalized.

However, the molnupiravir pill has been in lower demand than the Pfizer medication because of comparatively low efficacy and potential safety issues for certain groups.

For instance, the South African government declared that it was not planning to purchase Merck’s pill for cost reasons although the drug gained approval from the country’s health regulator.

Nkengasong urged African countries to use a combination of public health measures, vaccines, testing as well as the Pfizer and Merck treatments in their efforts to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic in 2022.

There is a concerning trend in very low COVID-19 vaccination rates experienced globally including most African countries since the COVID-19 virus still poses a grave risk among individuals with over 6 million fatalities recorded so far,” he cautioned.

Not only is equitable access to safe and effective vaccines critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic but also ensuring every country receives them for vaccination campaigns to protect their people especially the most vulnerable.

Earlier, Moderna signed a deal with Kenya to build its first mRNA facility to produce messenger mRNA vaccines while South African Aspen inked a deal with Johnson & Johnson to sell, package and distribute Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines.

BioNTech, Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine partner, also established a modular plant for manufacturing doses of its mRNA vaccine in Africa where they would be sold at a non-profit price.

Liked this article? Sign up to receive our regular email newsletters, focused on Africa and World’s healthcare industry, directly into your inbox. SUBSCRIBE HERE