Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on January 17, 2022
January 17, 2022
From: Public Health Agency of Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Throughout this pandemic, the Government of Canada has taken the responsibility to procure COVID-19 therapeutic products to ensure that Canada has early access to safe and effective treatments.
Since the onset of the pandemic, several different types of treatments have been developed to help reduce the severity of COVID-19.
COVID-19 treatments, along with vaccinations and public health measures, are essential to save lives, reduce illness and lessen the burden on our healthcare facilities.
And today, Health Canada announced it has authorized PAXLOVIDTM, the first COVID-19 therapy that can be taken at home. The treatment is the combination of two antiviral drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir.
The Public Health Agency of Canada works with Public Services and Procurement Canada to secure access to safe and effective COVID-19 treatments.
Today’s announcement is particularly important as access to easy-to-use treatments could help to reduce the severity of COVID-19 in adults who become newly infected and are at high risk of progressing to serious illness.
In December, the Government of Canada signed an agreement with Pfizer for an initial quantity of 1 million treatment courses of PAXLOVIDTM.
While there is currently limited global supply of PAXLOVIDTM, we are working to firm up a delivery schedule, with the intent of bringing treatment courses to Canada as quickly as possible. Minister’s Duclos and Tassi will provide further details on the distribution of the treatment later this afternoon.
Provinces and Territories will determine how best to manage the available supply with support from the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The Public Health Agency of Canada met with provincial and territorial colleagues to discuss deployment based on a per capita basis with adjustments that take into account shipping requirements from Pfizer.
To help inform their planning, the Public Health Agency of Canada has provided provinces and territories with interim implementation considerations for the deployment of initial supply of PAXLOVIDTM to treat COVID-19 in the context of supply limitations.
These interim recommendations are based on clinical risk factors, and health equity considerations:
- Prioritize individuals who are at the highest risk for severe illness and hospitalization. Individuals in the following categories have the highest likelihood of severe illness and should be given priority for treatment given the supply:
- Those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised not expected to mount an adequate response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, regardless of vaccination status;
- Individuals aged 80 years or over who’s vaccinations are not up to date;
- Individuals aged 60 years or over residing in under-served rural or remote communities, residing in a long-term care setting, or those in or from First Nations Inuit and Métis who’s vaccinations are not up to date.
- Consider making a greater supply available for use in rural and remote communities where there is limited access to tertiary care, and in situations where social and economic determinants of health, such as food insecurity, inadequate housing and a higher level of pre-existing medical conditions may exacerbate health inequalities.
- Infection must be confirmed and treatment initiated within 5 days of symptom onset. If PCR testing is not possible, or if results would not be available until more than 5 days from symptom onset, rapid antigen tests may be used. Drug interactions and access to alternate, effective COVID-19 treatments are also factors to consider.
I would like to provide a reminder that no drug, including PAXLOVIDTM, is a substitute for vaccination or public health measures. This is another tool in the toolkit to fight the pandemic.
It is important that everyone gets fully vaccinated and receives a COVID-19 booster as soon as they are eligible. Over time, our immune response from vaccines decreases. A booster dose produces more antibodies, which along with other immune cells, help to strengthen our immune response to protect against severe illness.
Finally, Canadians are reminded that both mRNA vaccines currently available are safe and effective and help protect against severe outcomes from COVID-19. Therefore, they should feel confident in accepting whichever vaccine is offered to them.
Both the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada continue to strongly recommend vaccination for all eligible Canadians, including those who are pregnant, may become pregnant or are breast-feeding.
As always, vaccination, including a booster dose, is the best way to protect yourself, your families and your communities against severe outcomes from COVID-19.
Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of infection and spreading the virus to others.
Public Health Agency of Canada