Pfizer's oral antiviral Covid-19 medication administered in combination with a low dose of HIV medicine ritonavir could be widely available around the world, subject to regulatory approval.
On Tuesday, Pfizer and the Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) announced the signing of a voluntary license agreement that could make the Covid-19 medication available for cheaper in poorer countries.
The agreement will grant qualified medicine manufacturers worldwide sub-licenses to supply the antiviral pill in combination with ritonavir to 95 countries, covering up to approximately 53% of the world’s population.
Pfizer said it would not receive royalties on sales in low-income countries and would further waive royalties on sales in all countries covered by the agreement.
Data from the clinical trial found an 89% reduction in risk of Covid-19-related hospitalisation or death compared to a placebo.
Chairperson and CEO of the pharmaceutical giant company, Albert Bourla, said the oral antiviral treatments could play a vital role in reducing the severity of Covid-19 infections, saving lives and decreasing the strain on healthcare systems.
Over 24 million Covid-19 vaccine doses have been administered to close to 16 million people since the start of the rollout in February this year.
This means that over 40% of the adult population, excluding the 12-17 age group, have received at least one dose of the vaccine.
18.3 million double dose Pfizer vaccines have been administered, and 5.8 million have been Johnson & Johnson.
The Department of Health said a total of 13.4 million South Africans adults are fully vaccinated, amounting to almost 34%.
More than 50% of people over the age of 50 years have been fully inoculated.
Meanwhile, the slowest age group to receive the vaccine falls within the 18-34 age group, which is the largest group in the adult population of SA.
Almost 300 000 teenagers between the ages of 12-17 have been vaccinated. This week will mark a month since vaccines opened for this age group.
A rise in Covid-19 cases is expected around mid-December to early January and could lead to the fourth wave in the country.
Health Minister Joe Phaahla said during a media briefing on Friday that while it is difficult to predict with certainty when the fourth wave will come, there are two factors that could drive an increase in infections.
The emergence of a new variant of concern could be a contributing factor to the fourth wave. However, the minister said the genomic surveillance team had not detected new variants of concern.
The movement of people around the festive season could also contribute to a resurgence of cases.
A national team has been set up to prepare for the inevitable fourth wave as healthcare facilities are preparing contingency plans for oxygen supplies, bed space, equipment, ventilators and personal protective equipment.
Since local government elections took place at the beginning of the month, the country hasn’t experienced a spike in Covid-19 infections, he said, and there were no super-spreading events related to the elections.
Keep an eye out next week for another round-up of the top Covid-19 stories.