Pfizer and Ronapreve COVID treatments to be available for Australians pending approval

Health Minister Greg Hunt. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong
Health Minister Greg Hunt. Picture: Sitthixay Ditthavong

Australia has secured two "breakthrough" COVID-19 treatments aimed at reducing hospitalisations and deaths as restrictions ease country-wide.

Health Minister Greg Hunt announced on Sunday the federal government had secured 15,000 doses of the antibody drug Ronapreve to be delivered this month.

The drug has shown promising results but still remains subject to approval by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Mr Hunt said trials of Ronapreve had shown a 70 per cent reduction in hospitalisation and deaths of patients with COVID-19.

The Minister also announced 500,000 doses of a Pfizer oral treatment had been secured to be delivered next year pending the results of a trial.

The oral antiviral treatment is taken every 12 hours for five days and is undergoing final clinical trials.

If both treatments are approved by the medical regulator, they will join a range of COVID-19 treatments already available to patients, including sotrovimab and remdesivir.

On the vaccination front, Mr Hunt announced the country had now surpassed an 84.6 per cent first-dose vaccination rate with 67.8 per cent of the eligible population aged 16 and over now fully vaccinated.

"Every Australian who seeks to be vaccinated will have the opportunity to be vaccinated during the course of October," Mr Hunt said.

Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said the new treatments were not a replacement for the vaccines.

But high vaccination rates alone would not be enough to suppress the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, he said.

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The transmissibility of the strain had made it much tougher to contain than the original virus and as a result, social distancing measures would need to remain for the time being.

"Vaccine alone will not be enough to completely suppress the circulation of the virus, at least in the next few months," Professor Kelly said.

"There will be a way back to the suppression strategy of making sure we are not overwhelming our healthcare system, and that will be an important component."

An advanced purchase agreement of another promising oral treatment had also been secured, Mr Hunt said.

Subject to TGA approval, a supply of 300,000 doses of experimental drug Molnupiravir will be available in 2022.

Travel bubble to re-open with New Zealand, Singapore considered

Professor Kelly announced the pause on quarantine-free travel between Australia and New Zealand will be partially lifted from midnight Tuesday following low case numbers.

People wishing to travel between New Zealand's south island and NSW or Victoria will be allowed without the mandatory 14-day quarantine period on arrival.

Work had been done to prevent travel between the south island and the north island, where there is an ongoing outbreak, giving health authorities enough confidence to re-open the travel bubble, he said.

Mr Hunt added discussions were ongoing between authorities in Singapore, flagging a travel "green lane" could open.

"They're obviously highly sophisticated society, they have a very good handle on the disease," he said.

"We're exchanging approaches but the top item on the agenda was a green lane travel program with Singapore."

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This story Govt secures 'breakthrough' COVID treatments as restrictions ease first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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