AFRICA – The COVID Treatment Quick Start Consortium has announced that the governments of Zambia, Laos, Malawi and Rwanda have received shipments of PAXLOVID (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir), Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral treatment.

Partners involved in the Quick Start Consortium are supporting test-and-treat programs to improve access to antiviral treatments in low- and middle-income countries.

PAXLOVID and other antivirals have been available since late 2021, but access remains limited in many low- and middle-income countries around the world.

Zambia was the first country to receive the treatment through the consortium, with an initial shipment of 1,000 courses of PAXLOVID reaching Lusaka in late December 2022 as part of a donation by Pfizer of 100,000 total courses to the Quick Start Consortium. Zambia received its second shipment on March 2nd.

As the COVID-19 pandemic enters its fourth year, equitable access to vaccines to prevent serious illness and testing and oral treatments to help treat it remains a challenge globally, leaving some low- and middle-income countries unprepared for potential surges.

The Ministries of Health in these four countries are working with the Quick Start Consortium and other partners to set the stage for the introduction and scale-up of COVID-19 treatments, with the ultimate goal of establishing sustainable test-and-treat programs — an important building block of national healthcare systems — that provide testing and access to low-cost generic antivirals.

“We are eager to continue the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, and that entails strengthening our healthcare systems with the COVID-19 antivirals,” said Professor Claude Mambo Muvunyi, the Director General of Rwanda Biomedical Centre.

“Partnership remains important in our approach, and we appreciate the collaboration with the ’Quick Start Consortium’ through COVID-19 drugs donation and the test-and-treat program implementation.

“Regardless of wealth or limited financial capacity, all patients deserve a return to good health. Only with this goal in mind can we successfully build a strong and resilient healthcare system.”

In September last year, a program to provide oral antiviral treatment for the Covid-19 virus through a public-private partnership dubbed the ‘Covid Treatment Quick Start Consortium’ was to be implemented in ten countries.

Quick Start partner countries include Ghana, Kenya, Laos, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Arrangements for PAXLOVID™ donations to the remaining countries are currently being finalized.

“Too many countries still lack access to critical tools, like oral treatments, that hold promise to reduce hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, Founding Director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center and implementing partner of Quick Start.

“We must strengthen the response to COVID-19 in every country; doing so lays the groundwork for building more robust and resilient health systems that can better handle future threats.”

The consortium aims to improve access to antiviral treatments in low- and middle-income countries through test-and-treat programmes.

The consortium argues that lack of access to vaccines, tests, and treatments is a challenge around the world, leaving many low- and middle-income countries unprepared for potential surges.

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