Quebec will receive about 6,300 doses of the antiviral drug Paxlovid this week, with thousands more set to arrive in the coming month.
The medication developed by Pfizer was approved for emergency use by Health Canada yesterday. It has the potential to reduce hospitalizations from the virus.
The drug’s arrival is being welcomed by health officials in Quebec, as hospitals have been overwhelmed by the number of COVID-19 patients infected by the highly contagious Omicron variant.
According to health officials, Paxlovid will be used to treat those who have mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 but risk developing a severe form of the disease.
The drug will be given only to patients 18 years and older who are immunocompromised, such as cancer patients or those who have had organ transplants, as well as to those with serious conditions who cannot be vaccinated.
By March, the province says, it’s expecting to get about 19,000 doses. At that point, it could be offered to more patients, not just those who are immunocompromised.
The pill must be taken orally: three pills taken twice a day for five days.
Another challenge is supplying the entire province, especially places where there aren’t hospitals. To do so, the government will partner with 50 to 60 local pharmacies that will stock the drug.
Health officials say there are challenges to administering it. The drug must be taken within five days of symptoms appearing.
After several months of clinical trials, Pfizer had reported in November that Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by an impressive 89 per cent compared with a placebo in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19.