First UNICEF shipment of COVID-19 antiviral medicine arrives in Cambodia

With support from Canada, deliveries through UNICEF will help to ensure that low- and middle-income countries have access to novel COVID-19 therapies.

COVID-19 antivirals being packed at UNICEF Supply Division, in Copenhagen.
17 August 2022

New COVID-19 antivirals are increasingly being used as part of many national COVID-19 response strategies. These novel therapies are administered to COVID-19 patients to help prevent the disease from becoming severe. Until now, these life-saving medicines were not widely accessible to low- and middle-income countries because of cost and availability.

Through the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), partners are accelerating the development and manufacturing of therapeutics, while UNICEF is supporting on procurement and distribution to ensure fair and equitable access for low- and middle-income countries.

Deliveries begin to 14 countries

Today, more than 20,000 units of molnupiravir touched down in Cambodia – the first of 14 countries planned to receive orders placed through UNICEF. This delivery follows on from the completion of several long-term arrangements (LTAs) established by UNICEF with suppliers of molnupiravir earlier in 2022 and subsequent allocations made by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“This shipment of novel therapeutics will boost Cambodia’s capacity to respond to COVID-19,” said Etleva Kadilli, Director of UNICEF Supply Division. “UNICEF remains committed to equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, tests and treatments for low- and middle-income countries where the burden on people and health systems is often greatest.”

Funding for these allocations of molnupiravir was made possible thanks in part to the Government of Canada’s contribution to UNICEF’s ACT-A Supplies Financing Facility (ACT-A SFF), a fund that supports the procurement and delivery of in-demand COVID-19 tools and related supplies.

Building on therapeutic equity

Since the pandemic began, treatment options for COVID-19 in most low- and middle-income countries have mainly been limited to oxygen therapy and corticosteroids such as dexamethasone, the first therapeutic available through the UNICEF Supply Catalogue. Access to novel therapeutics was possible for high-income countries, which could afford available supplies.

In January 2022, UNICEF established the first LTA for novel COVID-19 oral antivirals with the original manufacturer and generic suppliers.

UNICEF continues to work alongside ACT-A partners to address the inequalities that exist in access to COVID-19 therapeutics. This includes signing LTAs with manufacturers for novel products, prioritising technical support to build and improve oxygen systems in low- and middle-income countries, and leading the procurement and delivery of supplies.

Alongside COVID-19 therapeutics, UNICEF ships personal protective equipment (PPE), vaccines and diagnostics to support integrated national responses, including the strengthening of health systems to bring the pandemic under control as the virus continues to evolve.