Canada’s health experts hope to control the Omicron surge with the early rollout of Paxlovid

Image:  Paxlovid. Image credit: Thomas Hansmann/Pfizer

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Ottawa/cmedia: Canada’s health experts are optimistic to control the surge of Omicron by an early rollout of Health Canada’s approved Paxlovid, Pfizer’s new pill for the treatment of COVID-19 on Jan 17.

Health Canada says that the administration of Paxlovid, a prescription-only medication in pill form, is safe for adults ages 18 and older with a confirmed positive test and at a high risk of becoming seriously ill.

“The authorization today provides a new tool the toolkit against COVID-19 at a crucial time the pandemic as we’re faced with new variants. Importantly, it is a more accessible antiviral treatment for those at high risk of progression to severe COVID-19,” said Health Canada’s Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma, during a technical briefing discussing Paxlovid’s authorization on Jan 17.

“No drug, including Paxlovid, is a substitute for vaccination,” she said.  

Health Canada says that the active ingredient nirmatrelvir in Paxlovid works by stopping the virus from replicating, and unlike authorized medications for COVID-19 which had to be taken in a hospital or healthcare setting,  Paxlovid is the first COVID-19 therapy that can be taken at home.

The drug is intended for use as soon as possible after a diagnosis of COVID-19 and within five days of the start of symptoms, says Health Canada.

But getting the drug out to sick, vulnerable Canadians within the recommended five-day window after symptoms begin is debatable.

The government of Canada has received an initial shipment of 30,400 treatment courses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 oral antiviral treatment, PAXLOVIDTM, with 120,000 more expected to be delivered between now and the end of March, Filomena Tassi, Minister of Public Services and Procurement announced on Jan 17.

Getting that limited supply out in time to mitigate the pressure on hospitals is challenging and the impact likely won’t be felt anytime soon.