AFRICA – The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) has entered into a strategic partnership deal with Pfizer Inc., an American multinational pharmaceutical corporation, to ensure uninterrupted supply of the manufacturer’s COVID-19 pills for African countries.

The partnership with Pfizer will guarantee that African Union Member States receive supplies of the COVID-19 antiviral drug, known as Paxlovid, to treat COVID-19 patients across the African continent in their efforts to overcome the ongoing pandemic.

Paxlovid from Pfizer is a combination of a new molecule, PF-07321332, and the HIV antiviral ritonavir. Both belong to a class of antivirals known as “protease inhibitors,” which work by inhibiting the action of an enzyme required for viral replication. A five-day treatment course consists of one pill every 12 hours.

Pfizer has entered into advance purchase agreements for its antiviral pill with several other countries and has begun bilateral outreach to approximately 100 countries worldwide, declaring its commitment to working on “equitable access” to the treatment at an affordable price.

The COVID-19 pills which are less expensive to produce than vaccines, do not require a cold chain for delivery and can be self-administered by patients comes at a time when many African countries are having trouble administering them to populations due to issues of hesitancy and logistics.

The partnership between Africa CDC and Pfizer follows the World Health Organization (WHO) announcement that deaths in the continent from COVID-19 are expected to fall by nearly 94 percent in 2022 compared with 2021.

The Africa CDC recently announced that country-based research finds that scale-up speed with a focus on at-risk populations and the choice of COVID-19 vaccine brands are critical to structuring successful vaccination programs.

The analysis on the health and economic impact of COVID-19 vaccination stated that earlier start dates and rapid scale-up delivered greater health benefits in terms of hospitalizations and deaths averted as compared to programs that started later and scaled more slowly.

Acting Director of the Africa CDC Ahmed Ogwell Ouma reaffirmed that the public health agency partnered with Pfizer to bring supplies of the pharmaceutical firm’s Paxlovid antiviral COVID-19 pills to ensuring that the particular treatment is available to African countries.

Ahmed Ogwell Ouma said that the collaboration will allow African countries to access Paxlovid which is highly effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths at an affordable cost, noting that the agency had inked the supply pact in March 2020 but needed to be cleared by its legal office.

In addition, the Africa Center for Disease Control and Prevention is looking to expand local manufacturing of vaccines, diagnostics, and therapeutics to facilitate quick access to pharmaceutical products and medical supplies at reduced costs in the continent.

Acting Director of the Africa CDC Dr Ahmed Ouma highlighted that COVID-19 vaccination remains a key priority for Africa, noting that six African countries have vaccinated between 40 and 70 percent of their populations while less than 20 percent of the people in Africa are fully vaccinated.

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