BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — The Ministry of Health is looking to procure two types of experimental COVID-19 pills that have shown promise in cutting the risk of hospitalisation and death.

Health Minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham Hj Jaafar Sunday said Merck’s molnupiravir and Pfizer’s paxlovid antiviral treatments are needed in Brunei because they “attack the virus at different points”. 

“Both of these medicines are important for us to take a step towards the endemic phase and inshaAllah the technical team in the Ministry of Health is constantly monitoring any findings from this ongoing research,” he said at a press briefing. 

The minister made the comments in response to a question whether Brunei is considering bringing in the COVID pills once they have received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration.

American drug makers Merck and Pfizer said their experimental COVID-19 pills can reduce the risk of hospitalisations and death when patients receive early treatment.

Pfizer said Paxlovid cuts the risk of hospitalisation and death by 89 percent.

Health minister YB Dato Dr Hj Mohd Isham. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

Final analysis of Mercks’s Molnupiravir trial results showed that it is less effective in reducing the risk of hospitalisation or death from COVID-19 — from its early results of 50 percent to 30 percent.

The two experimental drugs use different methods to stop the virus from replicating. Molnupiravir acts by introducing mutations/errors into the genetic code of the virus during viral replication, while Paxlovid inhibits an enzyme that the coronavirus needs to multiply. 

Brunei reaches 80 percent vaccination milestone

Brunei achieved its 80 percent double dose vaccination milestone on Sunday, 10 days after entering the transition phase of its COVID-19 recovery plan.

A total of 402,966 people, or 80.1 percent of the population, have received their full dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Some 93.7 percent of Brunei residents have taken at least one jab since the national vaccination programme began in April.

The health ministry also reported 44 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, including one imported from Jakarta, bringing the total number of infections to 15,036.

Among the 525 active cases, four remained in critical condition.