Africa CDC in talks to import Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment pills

The Pfizer world headquarters stands in Midtown Manhattan, in New York City, on July 29. /Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The director of Africa’s Centers for Disease Control said the organization is talking to Pfizer about bringing its COVID-19 treatment pill to the continent.

The discussions come as Dr. John Nkengasong urges governments and citizens not to relent on vaccinations and preventive measures as various countries come down from waves of increased infections from the Omicron variant.

“We are in really close discussions with Pfizer to see what can be done to make the drugs available on the continent and accessible on the continent, that is the Paxlovid drugs,” said Nkengasong during a press briefing on Thursday.

According to data from Pfizer, Paxlovid retains its effectiveness against the Omicron variant and was nearly 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and death.

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 is be part of an approach in 2022 that includes scaling up vaccines and expanding testing to help deal with the pandemic.

At least 39 countries have reported the new variant and the average increase of cases in Africa is about 11 percent, he said.

He noted that vaccination rates are still not high enough, saying governments are struggling because there are such high numbers of people only getting vaccinated when there is a peak, which leads to a lot of hospitalizations and pressure on the systems that can be avoided.

“My advice to the population on the continent is go get vaccinated,” he said. “If the population is not ready to go get the vaccines the governments have worked so hard to bring to the continent, I see why countries would not have an option other than to impose vaccine mandates.”

The continent has received more than 660 million doses of vaccines, with only about 340 million doses administered.

Africa has now recorded more than 10.1 million cases of coronavirus with 232,363 deaths across more than 50 countries, according to the Africa CDC.