Rwanda has been selected among nine Sub-Saharan African countries where the use of antiviral oral drug treatment for Covid-19 will be piloted.
Target countries include Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, and one Southeast Asian country, Laos.
The new antiviral medicine, Paxlovid, has been available in high-income countries since late 2021 but is not yet widely available in low- and middle-income countries.
Paxlovid is administered in three tablets (two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir) taken together orally twice daily for five days, for a total of 30 tablets. However, it is not authorized for use for longer than five consecutive days.
Claude Muvunyi, Director General, Rwanda Biomedical Centre said the project will boost the efforts of building and strengthening a resilient healthcare system, quickly find the patients who need treatment and make sure they get needed medicines -regardless of their socio-economic status.
“We are eager to continue the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and make sure it does not become entrenched in our society. Like so many other diseases, Covid-19 won’t go away if you just ignore it.”
“Having oral antivirals for Covid-19 is something we have always looked forward to,” said Lloyd B. Mulenga, Director of Infectious Diseases for the Ministry of Health, Zambia.
“With this new milestone, we expect less admissions and also fewer Covid-19 related deaths leading to a reduced burden on our health system.”
“We have seen throughout the global Covid-19 response that new life-saving interventions like vaccines and treatments are not quickly reaching those most in need around the world,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, Founding Director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, one of the project partners.
“We are partnering with governments to bring the urgently needed medicines to high-risk populations in countries that do not have easy access to such innovations.”
The project will kick-start programs through a donation by Pfizer of 100,000 courses of Paxlovid for use in high-risk individuals with mild to moderate COVID-19.
Approved by World Health Organization, it indicates that Paxlovid is not a substitute for vaccination in individuals for whom COVID-19 vaccination and a booster dose are recommended.
Although more than two-thirds of the world’s population is now vaccinated, only 21.3 percent of Africans are fully vaccinated, according to Africa CDC.