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WHO aims to help poorer countries with $10 COVID pills

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BELGIUM: The World Health Organization-led programme to ensure poorer countries get fair access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments aim to secure antiviral drugs for patients with mild symptoms for as little as $10 per course, Agencies report.

Merck & Co’s experimental pill molnupiravir, likely to be one of the drugs to treat mild patients, is being developed.

Merck & Co. has licensing deals with eight Indian generic drugmakers.

The document, which outlines the goals of the access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A) until September next year, says that the programme wants to deliver about one billion COVID-19 tests to poorer nations, and procure drugs to treat up to 120 million patients globally, out of about 200 million new cases it estimates in the next 12 months.

The plans highlight how the WHO wants to shore up supplies of drugs and tests at a relatively low price after losing the vaccine race to wealthy nations which scooped up a huge share of the world’s supplies, leaving the world’s poorest countries with few shots.

In addition, the programme plans to invest massively in COVID-19 diagnostics in order to at least double the number of tests carried out in poorer nations, defined as low-income and low-middle income countries.

Currently, poor countries conduct on average about 50 tests per 100,000 people every day, against 750 tests in richer nations. The ACT-A wants to bring testing rates to a minimum of 100 tests per 100,000 in poorer states.

That means delivering around one billion tests in the next 12 months, around 10 times more than the ACT-A has procured so far, the document shows.

The push on tests is meant to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor, as only 0.4 per cent of the about three billion tests reported across the world have been conducted in poor nations, the document says.

It would also help spot earlier possible new variants, which tend to proliferate when infections are widespread, and therefore are more likely in the countries with lower vaccination rates.

The document underlines that “vaccine access is highly inequitable with coverage ranging from one per cent to over 70

The programme aims to vaccinate at least 70 per cent of the eligible population in all countries by the middle of next year, in line with the WHO’s goals.


Thursday, October 21, 2021 – 01:00

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