The Africa Regional of the World Health Organisation says African countries face major impediments in accessing other COVID-19 treatment due to limited availability and high cost.
This was part of discussions at the weekly press briefing by the Regional Director of the UN Organisation, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, where she explained that the WHO had last week, recommended two new drugs, a rheumatoid arthritis drug called baricitinib and a monoclonal antibody called sotrovimab, raising the number of WHO approved COVID-19 therapeutics to 11.
She said WHO is reviewing the data on two oral antivirals, paxlovid from Pfizer and molnupiravir from Merck, which the manufacturers report show promise in reducing the risk of hospitalization in some patients.
Further, the Regional Director explained that following initial negotiations with the Swiss pharmaceutical Roche, WHO is supporting the shipment of a limited number of vials of Tocilizumab to African countries in the coming weeks, as Cape Verde and Uganda have already received vials with Burkina Faso, Ghana and Tanzania due to receive a consignment soon.
Tocilizumab is an immunosuppressive drug which can be used to treat patients with severe COVID-19.
Dr. Moeti also stated that further larger-scale deliveries of the drug to the continent are expected, through the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT)-Accelerator partnership, negotiations are also underway with other drug makers to procure supplies of COVID-19 treatments.
“The deep inequity that left Africa at the back of the queue for vaccines must not be repeated with life-saving treatments. Universal access to diagnostics, vaccines and therapeutics will pave the shortest path to the end of this pandemic and no region of the world should be left on the fringes of this endeavour,” said Dr Moeti.
Dr. Moeti lamented that vaccination in Africa has not met the extent of vaccine supplies to the continent.
“In Africa, while vaccine supplies have been on the rise in recent months, the rate of vaccination remains low, with just 10% of the continent’s population fully vaccinated. Africa has so far received about 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and administered 327 million.
“Significant efforts are needed to ramp up the vaccination to reach a broad swathe of the population. In 2022, an average of between 250 million and 300 million doses of vaccine will be available for supply each month.“By mid-2022, the COVAX Facility expects to have enough supply for all the countries participating in the Facility’s Advance Market Commitment option to fully vaccinate 45% of their populations.”