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Paxlovid, Pfizer's Covid-19 pill, is manufactured in Freiburg, Germany. File photo: HANDOUT via REUTERS/PFIZER
Paxlovid, Pfizer's Covid-19 pill, is manufactured in Freiburg, Germany. File photo: HANDOUT via REUTERS/PFIZER

Africa’s top public health body is in talks with Pfizer to secure supplies of its antiviral Paxlovid pills for treating Covid-19, its director said on Thursday.

Paxlovid is almost 90% effective in preventing hospitalisation and deaths, and data suggests it retains its efficacy against Omicron, Pfizer has said.

“We are in discussions with Pfizer to see what can be done to make the [Paxlovid] drugs available and accessible on the continent,,” said John Nkengasong, director of the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Governments around the world are scrambling to buy Paxlovid while Merck’s Molnupiravir has faced setbacks after disappointing trial data.

Nkengasong said obtaining supplies of Covid-19 drugs was one of three strategies for combating the pandemic in Africa in 2022, along with scaling up vaccinations and expanded testing.

Drug treatments are crucial should another, more transmissible Covid variant emerge and threaten to overwhelm public health systems.

“The only way to relieve that will be if we have drugs like Paxlovid where people can take it and stay home and get relief. That way the burden and the constraints on the health system will be limited,” Nkengasong told an online news briefing.

Africa has officially recorded more than 10-million cases of Covid since the start of the pandemic, though the number is likely much higher due to patchy testing.

Several African countries are experiencing fourth or fifth waves of infections, and Nkengasong said only 10% of Africans were fully vaccinated.

South Korea will begin treating Covid patients with Paxlovid on Friday, the first Asian country to do so.

Reuters

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