After a slow and somewhat confusing start, the rollout of antiviral drugs to fight COVID-19 has begun in Chatham-Kent.
The province has earmarked 14 pharmacies in the municipality where Paxlovid will be dispensed. The drug is free, however a prescription is necessary.
According to Cane Suni, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance vice-president of clinical programs and operations, a doctor must first assess the patient to determine eligibility and this can be done at the CKHA COVID-19 Assessment Centre in Chatham.
“If patients are deemed eligible to receive the treatment, then a prescription will be prepared,” Suni added.
In order to get the drug, patients must have a positive COVID-19 test, either done by way of a PCR test or a health-care-administered rapid antigen test.
According to Ministry of Health data, antiviral treatments can help prevent serious illness in COVID-19 positive patients with higher risk factors if treatment begins within five days of the start of symptoms.
Taken orally, Paxlovid treatment entails taking a combination of tablets over a five-day period. In clinical trials, it reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 per cent for people at higher risk of developing serious illness from COVID-19.
A second intravenous medication called Remdesivir is also being used in COVID-19 treatment.
Suni said the hospital is currently working on a process to administer the drug in patients’ homes with the help of the Chatham EMS paramedicine team.
“We did the first one yesterday (April 13),” Suni said of Remdesivir, “but a formal process is not in place yet.
“It’s important to note that the availability has opened up,” Suni said, noting that access to the drug in rural areas has caught up to urban centres.
Of the 16 pharmacies in Chatham-Kent that have Paxlovid available, seven locations in Chatham include all three Shoppers Drug Marts, both of the Rexall Pharmacies, the Drug Store Pharmacy on St. Clair Street North, the BMC Pharmacy on Granve Avenue East and Chatham Centre Pharmacy on King Street.
In Wallaceburg, the drug is available at both the Rexall Pharmacy and Shoppers Drug Mart.
In Tilbury, the drug will be dispensed at Shoppers Drug Mart and the Tilbury Pharmacy, and in Blenheim at the Shoppers Drug Mart and McIntyre I.D.A. Pharmacy.
Shoppers Drug Mart in Ridgetown will also carry it, as well as Guardian Pharmacy in Wheatley.
Those who qualify for Paxlovid include anyone over 18 who is immunocompromised (an immune system weakened by a health condition or medications; those aged 70 and up; people aged 60 and over with less than three doses of vaccine, and anyone over 18, with less than three vaccine doses and at least one risk condition.
Because the information is changing daily, people are advised to check the provincial website at https://covid-19.ontario.ca/covid-19-antiviral-treatment.
Residents are still being asked to get vaccines as the first defense against the virus.
Patients are also advised to take the online screening assessment as a first step.