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Sask. COVID update: New Paxlovid pill treatment arrives for use

Select Sask. patients will soon have access to the at-home COVID pill treatment, as Omicron transmission continues.
taking pill stock
The at-home pill treatment will only be available to select patients, similar to the monoclonal antibody treatment introduced earlier this fall.

REGINA — Saskatchewan public health is preparing to add another treatment option to it's roster for COVID-19 patients, following the arrival of a first allotment of a new oral antiviral pill.

The pill treatment from Pfizer BioNTech, known as Paxlovid, was approved by Health Canada for use in treating symptomatic COVID-19 patients on Jan. 17. 

Paxlovid is taken in tablet form, twice a day for a course of five days, to reduce the severity of symptoms. It can be used as an at-home antiviral treatment, the first offered in Canada.

“It stops the virus from multiplying in the body, to help people with lower immunity to COVID-19 overcome the infection and prevent progression to hospitalization,” said public health, in a statement.

Saskatchewan has received a total of 900 courses of the pill from federal supplies, with more expected to arrive in the future. The current supply has been distributed across the province at select pharmacies, with Indigenous Services Canada arranging access for First Nations and Metis communities.

The pill will be available beginning on Jan. 26, but patients eligible to receive the pill treatment will have to meet certain criteria, said public health.

Similar to monoclonal antibody treatment, Paxlovid will only be made available to residents over the age of 18 who are within five days of becoming symptomatic, after confirmation with a positive PCR or rapid test.

High risk residents will also be able to access the treatment, including anyone who is immunocompromised, aged 55 or older and unvaccinated or has a medical condition that puts them at high risk and is unvaccinated.

Referrals for treatment will also only be issued through HealthLine 811, said public health, and not available through family physician clinics or pharmacies for request.

Public health noted that the new pill is not a substitute for vaccination, as its purpose is to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 rather than prevent infection before it occurs.

Officials continue to encourage vaccination as the best measure to protect against serious COVID-19 infection. 

A total of 14,129 first and second doses of vaccine were delivered across the province in the last week, said the province’s weekly data update.

As of Jan. 25, 79 per cent of eligible individuals over five years old are fully vaccinated, and 47 per cent of eligible residents have received a booster.

The province recorded 8,732 new cases of COVID-19 since Jan, 19, and 7,919 recoveries. 

The seven-day average of new cases is currently at 1,247, or 103.5 per 100,0000.

Another 16 individuals died from COVID-19 this week, and hospitalizations have risen to an all-time high of 291. Of those patients, 258 are receiving inpatient care and 33 are in an ICU unit.

The province continues to break down hospitalization data according to admittance reasons, noting that 112 individuals in inpatient care are due to a COVID-19 related illness and 120 are incidental COVID infections. Of ICU patients, 22 were admitted due to COVID-19 illness and five are incidental infections.

Three patients are currently in the children’s ICU for COVID-related illness.

The COVID-19 enforcement team issued a total of fifteen tickets and fines for violation of current public health orders between Jan. 10 and Jan. 17, including to thirteen individuals for failure to mask.

The Beacon Coffeehouse in Caronport and the Jug Bar and Grill in Eston also received a $14,000 fine each for failure to check for proof of vaccination or negative test.

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