The COVID-19 pandemic continues to pose a significant challenge globally as it enters its fourth year. While access to vaccines, testing, and oral treatments remains limited in many low- and middle-income countries, the COVID Treatment Quick Start Consortium has announced that the governments of Zambia, Laos, Malawi, and Rwanda have received shipments of PAXLOVID™ (nirmatrelvir/ritonavir), Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral treatment. The Consortium is supporting test-and-treat programs to improve access to antiviral treatments in these countries.
The Ministries of Health in the four countries are working with the Consortium and other partners to introduce and scale-up COVID-19 treatments, with the ultimate goal of establishing sustainable test-and-treat programs. These programs will provide testing and access to low-cost generic antivirals, which will be important building blocks of national healthcare systems.
While PAXLOVID™ and other antivirals have been available since late 2021, access to them remains limited in many low- and middle-income countries worldwide. Zambia was the first country to receive the treatment through the Consortium, with an initial shipment of 1,000 courses of PAXLOVID™ reaching Lusaka in late December 2022 as part of Pfizer’s donation of 100,000 total courses. Zambia received its second shipment on March 2nd.
The Quick Start partner countries include Ghana, Kenya, Laos, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, with arrangements for PAXLOVID™ donations to the remaining countries currently being finalized.
In a statement, Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, Founding Director of the Duke Global Health Innovation Center and implementing partner of Quick Start, stressed the importance of strengthening the response to COVID-19 in every country, as doing so lays the groundwork for building more robust and resilient health systems that can better handle future threats.
The Ministries of Health in the four countries that have received PAXLOVID™ shipments have expressed their appreciation for the opportunity to be prepared before facing another wave of COVID-19. They acknowledge the need for partnership and collaboration to continue the fight against the pandemic and strengthen healthcare systems with COVID-19 antivirals. They also recognize the importance of providing all patients with access to the tools necessary to return to good health, regardless of wealth or limited financial capacity.