The director of the Africa Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said the organization was discussing with Pfizer the introduction of its Covid-19 treatment pill on the continent, which has just passed 10 million cases.
The talks come as Dr John Nkengasong urges the government and citizens not to relax vaccinations and preventative measures as various countries experience increased waves of infections from the omicron variant.
“We work hand in hand. … We are in close discussions with Pfizer to see what can be done to make the drugs available on the continent”, Nkengasong said at a press briefing on Thursday.
He said he hoped the treatment would help health systems on the continent and 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 Omicron variant and the average increase in cases in Africa is around 11%, he said.
He noted that vaccination rates are still not high enough, saying governments are struggling because there are so many people only getting vaccinated when there is a spike, resulting in many hospitalizations and strain on systems that can be avoided.
The continent has received over 660 million doses of vaccines, with only around 340 million doses administered.
The strategy to fight Covid-19 in Africa is the first vaccination, but “with the arrival of new drugs, it seems that it would be possible and recommended to treat even mild cases”, WHO Regional Director of Emergencies for Africa, Abdou Salam Gueye, told reporters on Thursday.
The WHO added that“after a six-week wave, the fourth pandemic wave in Africa, mainly due to the omicron variant, is flattening out, marking the shortest wave to date”. Deaths are lower than in previous waves and hospitalizations remain low, the WHO noted.
Africa has now recorded more than 10.1 million coronavirus cases with 232,363 deaths in more than 50 countries, according to the Africa CDC.