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How to get COVID-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid in Saskatchewan

Click to play video: 'SHA on options to test for COVID-19, Paxlovid treatment' SHA on options to test for COVID-19, Paxlovid treatment
WATCH: SHA Saskatoon Pandemic Chief of Staff Dr. Satchan Takaya explains differences for doing a rapid test vs. a PCR test for COVID-19, and details on the Paxlovid treatment that's now available – Jan 26, 2022

On Wednesday, Saskatchewan health officials announced that the first oral antiviral pill to treat COVID-19 approved by Health Canada was available for residents.

A provincial emergency operations centre (PEOC) briefing outlined who would be able to access the treatment and how to do so.

Read more: COVID-19: Paxlovid pill available to eligible Saskatchewan residents beginning Wednesday

Paxlovid is not for prevention of COVID-19 infection, but rather treatment of symptomatic COVID-19 after a positive test.

“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,” a government release stated.

Residents must call HealthLine 811 for further assessment of their eligibility. Paxlovid is only provided to eligible patients through referral by 811.

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Residents are instructed not to visit their family doctor or a pharmacy to request Paxlovid.

Read more: Canadian officials hopeful COVID-19 treatments will help ease strain on hospitals

Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency president Marlo Pritchard acknowledged long wait times for residents calling 811, but said work has been done to address the issue.

A total of 60 administrative staff have been added to take general information calls and the service is in the process of adding more registered nurses.

“At its peak, 811 had a 24-hour wait time and over 2,000 callers waiting for a callback. As of Jan. 25, the average wait time was down to approximately one hour,” Pritchard said.

Saskatchewan Health Authority infectious diseases specialist Dr. Satchan Takaya said residents who call 811 after testing positive will be screened to see if they meet criteria for Paxlovid.

“If it looks like they have enough risk factors to be eligible for review for potential therapies, that form is actually sent to our assessment team and happens as soon as we get the facts,” Takaya explained.

From there, Takaya said the assessment team would reach out to the individual to make sure they are within the correct time frame for treatment.

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Takaya said though there is likely a lot of interest in Paxlovid and a potential for more calls to 811, she doesn’t think it will add a lot of pressure.

“We’ve actually streamlined it very nicely with 811 (and) pharmacy partners. It’s been a lot of work but I think we’ve got a fairly good process,” Takaya said.

Click to play video: 'Health Canada approves Paxlovid, Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill' Health Canada approves Paxlovid, Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill
Health Canada approves Paxlovid, Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill – Jan 17, 2022

Takaya added that they don’t want COVID-19-positive individuals to wait too long before calling 811.

“We don’t want you to get so sick to the point that the medication won’t work. It is designed for mild to moderate disease. So not having too much shortness of breath, bit of a cough,” Takaya said.

“Nothing that would flag that they might need hospitalization if somebody gets to that point where they’re having trouble breathing and feel like, ‘Oh no, I have to go to emergency,’ those are not the people that we’re targeting with these medications,” she added.

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A hands-free process is in development for pharmacies to provide prescriptions to individuals who are COVID-19 positive and under isolation, such as a driving by the pharmacy and getting the medication through a car window.

A number of pharmacies also have delivery capabilities.

Paxlovid is a tablet which is taken twice a day for five days.

Read more: COVID-19: Sask. Premier says some measures have ‘run their course’ on radio show

Paxlovid is only recommended for adults over 18 who are symptomatic and within five days of developing symptoms, test positive for mild or moderate COVID-19 and do not have any medical conditions that would make treatment inappropriate.

Individuals must also meet one of the following criteria: are immunocompromised regardless of vaccination status, are 55 or older and not fully vaccinated, or have a medical condition that puts them at high risk and are not fully vaccinated.

Saskatchewan has received a limited quantity of 900 courses from the federal supply to begin with.

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