Sajid Javid has today (20th October, 2021) announced that the Government has bought hundreds of thousands of pills which can be taken at home to treat those infected with Covid this winter.
The Health Secretary said the drugs are likely to be given to people who are infected or those who may have been exposed to the virus in a localised outbreak, for example at a care home. 480,000 doses of Molnupiravir, an antiviral made by US pharmaceutical company Merck, plus 250,000 courses of PF-073 courses from Pfizer, have been bought.
The drugs are currently pending approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), which could come as early as mid-November according to officials, although Pfizer’s pills are not expected to be available until January at the earliest.
Speaking at the Downing Street press conference this evening, Mr Javid said: ‘I am pleased to announce that we have signed two landmark deals, securing hundreds and thousands of doses of two new antivirals from Pfizer and Merck.
‘These antivirals have the potential to speed up recovery time and to stop infections from progressing. If these treatments get MHRA approval then we can provide some of the most vulnerable patients with vital protection.
‘And I want to deploy them as quickly as possible. I’d like to thank everyone who’s been involved in this, especially the Antivirals Taskforce under the leadership of Eddie Gray for everything they’ve done to make this happen and we’ll keep working on to secure more of these treatments so we can continue to treat as many people as possible.’
At the televised press conference the Health Secretary also batted away demands from NHS bosses for the Government to revert to its Covid winter ‘Plan B’ amid surging infections and a sluggish booster vaccine programme. He insisted ministers would not reintroduce face masks and WFH guidance as he addressed the nation from the Downing Street podium. However, he said ministers would ‘stay vigilant’ because cases could still rise to 100,000 a day this winter.