The Philippines has reached over a million recorded cases of COVID-19, and that isn’t something to flex. With the country’s limited resources, packed hospitals, and the lives of its frontliners on the line – vaccination efforts have fallen short of the goal to achieve herd immunity. However, a new effort by Pfizer could provide a semblance of hope.

Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla announced that the pharmaceutical company is in their early-stage clinical trial of creating an anti-viral pill. This pill could be taken orally by people who test positive for COVID-19 to treat their symptoms. In an article by Forbes, Bourla called the oral medicine a game-changer since the patient could take it at home, thus eliminating the need to line up at hospitals.

pfizer, <b>Pfizer could release an oral antiviral pill against COVID-19 by end of 2021</b>
Andrew Kelly/Reuters

The oral drug expected to be effective against COVID-19 variants is part of a class of medicine called protease inhibitors. These inhibitors function by hindering an enzyme that the virus requires to replicate in human cells. Additionally, protease inhibitors are also used to treat viral pathogens such as HIV and hepatitis C.

Once the trial is successful and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, it could be distributed across the U.S. by the end of 2021, Bourla shared per CNBC‘s Squawk Box.

Hopefully, the distribution of the drugs would trickle down to Asia so that Filipinos could also save a trip from the hospital. Also, since the concern of vaccine hoarding inevitably applies to this new venture, Bourla reminds that it is essential that everyone, including third world countries, gets to benefit.

‘In a pandemic, you are as protected as your neighbor,’ says Bourla, saying that neglected countries ultimately become the pool where variants of the virus are born.