Latest news on Omicron and Covid tests: live updates on the coronavirus

Credit…Patrick Doyle/Reuters

Canada on Monday approved the country’s first antiviral pill for use at home to fight Covid-19 infections, though global supply shortages may impact how quickly the drug can be distributed to those who need it. need it.

In December, Canada ordered one million treatment courses of Paxlovid, manufactured by Pfizer, and received a shipment of more than 30,000 treatment courses, said Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health. He said another 120,000 Paxlovid courses are expected to arrive in February and March.

The United States approved the use of Paxlovid in December, then doubled its order for the drug earlier this month, asking for a supply sufficient for 20 million treatments.

Health Canada, the agency responsible for licensing drugs in the country, is still considering approval of Merck’s antiviral pill, molnupiravir. In December, Canada ordered up to one million molnupiravir treatments and reached an agreement to manufacture it at a factory in Whitby, Ontario, for local and international distribution.

Paxlovid has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19 by 85% when taken within five days of symptoms, compared to no treatment. These results were based on data from a clinical trial in high-risk unvaccinated adults with Covid-19 who were not hospitalized, and submitted by Pfizer on December 1 to Health Canada as part of the accelerated review. of the agency, officials said in a technical report. Monday briefing.

The data also confirmed the drug’s efficacy against the Omicron variant.

A course of treatment lasts five days and is a combination of two antiviral drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir, taken twice a day, said Dr Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser at Health Canada.

Paxlovid is intended for use after a positive test result for coronavirus and within five days of the first symptoms.

“I would like to reiterate that no drug, including Paxlovid, replaces vaccination or public health measures,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Chief Public Health Officer of Canada. “It’s another tool in the toolbox to fight the pandemic.”

Health Canada will send Paxlovid tablets to the provinces, based on population and health equity factors. Priority targets for the drug include moderately to severely immunocompromised people, regardless of their vaccination status; people aged 80 and over whose vaccinations are not up to date; and people age 60 or older living in remote areas, long-term care facilities, or Indigenous communities.

A surge of virus cases in Canada is expected to push hospital admissions to levels not yet seen during the pandemic. The national seven-day positivity rate is close to 24% on Monday, according to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada. This rate underestimates active cases, as many provinces turn to rapid antigen testing to offset the burden on PCR testing resources for the most severe cases.

About 77% of Canadians are fully immunized and 28% have also received a booster shot.

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