FACT-CHECK: Remdesivir Not COVID-19 Vaccine Only Distributed In Africa

VERDICT: FALSE

CLAIM: Since September 2020, multiple users on Social media have shared an image that shows a picture of a medicine box for “Cipremi”, which is described as “Remdesivir for Injection”.

The image is accompanied by a claim that it is a COVID-19 vaccine to be tested on only Africans. With the role out of Coronavirus vaccines across the globe, the claim has gone viral in recent weeks.

Most of these social media post suggested that Africans are going to be ‘used as guinea pigs’ to test the vaccine or there is a sinister motive behind why is marked to be distributed only in Africa. Ozolua. O. Giwa-Amu shared it here which was reshared by popular former Minister of Aviation and conspiracy theorist Femi Fani-Kayode.

Most comments under the posts have also suggested Remdesivir is a vaccine.

FACT: Remdesivir is not a COVID-19 vaccineInformation on Gilead Sciences, Inc, original makers of Remdesivir, the website says Remdesivir is an investigational antiviral for the treatment of COVID-19 to treat pediatric patients less than 12 years of age or weighing 3.5 kg to less than 40 kg with coronavirus disease  (COVID-19) caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Responding on Twitter, Cipla South Africa said ‘’Remdesivir, is used in the management of severe COVID-19 disease, is not a COVID-19 vaccine. The label restriction indicates territories not licensed to Cipla for supply. For more details about the license agreement, please visit’’Voluntary Licensing Agreements for Remdesivir.

Under the licensing agreements, which included Cipla, the companies have a right to receive a technology transfer of the Gilead manufacturing process for Remdesivir to enable them to scale up production more quickly.

Why Only In Africa?

Gilead went further to state that ‘’the licensees also set their own prices for the generic product they produce, a post by Reuters.

It also noted that the licenses are royalty-free until the World Health Organization declares the end of the Public Health Emergency of International Concern regarding COVID-19.

“Or until a pharmaceutical product other than remdesivir or a vaccine is approved to treat or prevent COVID-19, whichever is earlier.’’

The agreements permit distribution in Vietnam, Ukraine, Thailand, Zambia, Togo, South Africa, North Korea, Cuba are among the 127 countries include most African countries.

Our fact-checkers also spoke to Professor Morenike Ukpong, Department of Child Dental Health Faculty of Dentistry College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, who said such an occurrence was not strange. She said such is called differential pricing and countries can negotiate upfront for this when involved in clinical trials for drug development.

‘’Many companies as part of things social responsibility produce brands that are cheaper but not of inferior quality for low-income countries. They label it so it does not find its way back into high-income countries where they will now make an excessive margin.’’ She said.

The claim that the drug is not in use in Europe is also false. The European Union (EU) signed a €63 million contract with Gilead Science in July 2020 to make Remdisivir available in its 27 member states. Stella Kyriakides, the EU Commissioner of Food and Health Safety, said the medication will be provided to 30,000 patients with severe symptoms of Covid-19 in a press release on July 9, 2020.

CONCLUSION

The claim that Cipremi”, which is described as “Remdesivir for Injection” is a COVID-19 vaccine to be tested on only Africans is false. It is not a vaccine, it is an anti-viral drug used to manage severe COVID-19.

CDD is urging members of the public to verify all information before they share with their audience.

Center for Democracy and Development West Africa| CDD West Africa