The first pills of Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral drug could arrive in Alberta by the end of the week, officials say.
An Alberta Health spokesperson told CTV News Edmonton the department was working with the federal government to confirm a timeline.
“We hope to receive a first shipment by the end of this week,” Chastity Anderson wrote in an email.
The drug was the first oral and at-home prescription medication to be cleared for use in Canada on Monday, with Health Canada’s chief medical advisor, Dr. Supriya Sharma, commenting, “No drug, including Paxloid, is a substitute for vaccination.”
The first 30,400 treatment courses – of one million secured by Canada – landed in the country on the weekend. Ottawa has said it will distribute the medication throughout the week.
Anderson did not say how many treatments Alberta would receive.
SHIPMENT TO GO TO LOCAL PHARMACIES
While supply is limited both domestically and globally, provinces have been asked to prioritize giving Paxlovid to:
Individuals who have the highest likelihood of severe illness including those who are immunocompromised regardless of vaccination status;
Individuals over the age of 80 whose vaccinations are not up to date; and
Canadians aged 60 or older who live in underserved rural or remote communities, long-term care homes, who are from First Nations, Inuit, and Metis communities, or whose vaccinations are not up to date.
According to Anderson, Alberta’s first doses will be distributed to a “small number of community pharmacies.”
“We’re reviewing Health Canada’s guidelines and working with clinicians to determine eligibility criteria. We want to make sure the drug goes to those who will benefit the most, especially early on when the supply will be limited,” she added.
Although Dr. Alain Tremblay at the University of Calgary Cumming School of Medicine considers Paxlovid the first “truly effective oral therapy for outpatients with COVID,” he said the drug’s initial limited supply will be a restraint on its broader impact.
“I can guarantee that it’s not going to be enough to treat everyone that might qualify, so there’s going to be some decisions to make on how to make sure that the right people, that it’s equitable,” he commented.
Health Canada has ruled the pill can be given to adults aged 18 and older to treat mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 if they have a confirmed positive test and are at high risk of becoming seriously ill.
The authorization also comes with specific instructions on scenarios in which the regime cannot be used, including to prevent COVID-19 infections or to treat patients who are already hospitalized due to severe COVID-19 cases.
Paxlovid cannot be taken for longer than five days in a row.
With files from CTV News Calgary and CTVNews.ca
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