The European Commission on Tuesday said that it has signed a joint procurement contract for an antiviral treatment for patients with COVID-19 with Gilead Sciences Inc (GILD.O).
According to a report by news agency Reuters, this is the second contract for the drug, branded as Veklury, which is approved in Europe to treat COVID patients who are at high risk of experiencing a severe case of the disease, as well as patients who have pneumonia and require supplemental oxygen.
Altogether, 22 EU member states and countries are participating in the joint procurement, under which they can purchase up to 2,250,000 vials. The last contract for Veklury ended in April.
The new contract comes as Europe battles a burgeoning COVID wave spearheaded by the Omicron offshoot, BA.5. Close to three million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the European region last week, which accounted for nearly half of all new cases globally.
Hospitalisation rates have doubled over the same period, and close to 3,000 people die of the disease every week, Hans Kluge, the WHO Regional Director for Europe, said on Tuesday as quoted by Reuters.
Countries must accelerate vaccine uptake, judiciously use therapeutics and bring back measures such as mask wearing to avoid having to implement stricter measures later this year, he cautioned in an interview with Reuters.
“People sometimes ask, is the virus back?,” said Kluge. “It has never gone away. It’s still there. It’s spreading. It is mutating. And unfortunately, it’s still taking a lot of lives.”
(With inputs from Reuters)