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New Covid-19 pill delivered to high-risk patients in four African countries

 Pfizer's COVID-19 pill Paxlovid. [AP photo]

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 including Kenya.

According to an announcement made on Monday Zambia was the first country to receive treatment through the consortium.

The country received an initial shipment of 1,000 courses of PAXLOVID reaching Lusaka in late December 2022. This was part of a donation by Pfizer of 100,000 total courses to the Quick Start Consortium.

Zambia also received its second shipment on March 2.

Dr. Viengsakhone Louangpradith, Deputy Director General of the Department of Healthcare and Rehabilitation, Lao PDR, said, "We appreciate the opportunity to be effectively prepared before we face another wave of COVID-19. We are happy to continue our close collaboration with the consortium in ensuring we carry out and improve the country's COVID-19 strategy."

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

"The partnership remains important in our approach, and we appreciate the collaboration with the Quick Start Consortium through COVID-19 drugs donation and the testing-and-treat program," he said.

He added that 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.

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 finalised.

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

"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," Udayakumar said.

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.

The Ministries of Health in the four countries are working with the Quick Start Consortium and other partners intent to establish sustainable test-and-treat programs that provide testing and access to low-cost generic antivirals.

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