Dr. Bonnie Henry said Tuesday that some British Columbians will now have access to a new medication in the fight against COVID-19.
B.C. has received 4,000 treatment courses of Pfizer’s antiviral pill Paxlovid, which will be available to some critically extremely vulnerable people in designated groups.
This includes people undergoing cancer treatment, recent transplant patients and the severely immunocompromised, for example.
“This is a very challenging medication combination,” she explained. “It can’t be used in some cases and it also has some very important drug interactions.”
Public health officials will reach out to eligible patients proactively, Henry said.
The medication must also be used within five days of symptom onset in COVID-positive patients, she added, and public health officials are aligning their COVID-19 testing strategy to match.
Meanwhile, the provincial health officer believes B.C. has reached its peak for hospitalizations.
The province hit an all-time high on Monday with 1,048 people in hospitals, largely driven by the Omicron variant, she explained.
Henry said 706 new people were admitted to hospitals over the last week, but that hospitalizations with COVID-19 are going down in all age groups.
In previous waves, hospitalizations with the Delta variant were much higher, she added, and there is now a smaller proportion of people requiring critical care while in the hospital, including ventilators.
“Sixty per cent of admissions that were related to Omicron were not because of the infection, but people who were admitted and tested and found to have a positive test,” Henry said.
“That’s telling us as Omicron has spread in the communities, we’re more likely to pick it up when people are admitted to hospital for other reasons, and those other reasons are what keep them in hospital, and are reasons they’re in for a period of time.”
Hospitals are coping because so many people are vaccinated and keeping restrictions in place has also helped, Henry added.
“We are looking forward to when we can lift those measures,” she said.
However, the record number of people in hospitals is having an effect on other needs within the system.
A lack of staff at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee hospital due to COVID-19 illness has meant at least one patient needs to count on family to come in and feed her.
Margaret Mears is currently in hospital due to a reaction to her antibiotics. Her hands are virtually paralyzed.
Mears’s daughter, Helen Bell, was contacted by the hospital on Monday morning and told there was not enough staff to feed her 87-year-old mother.
“They said they did not have enough staff on today to feed her her meals, and (the family) must come down and feed her. So could we please figure out a way to get someone there for breakfast, lunch and supper because there was not enough staff,” Bell told Global News. “We did a bit of scrambling, but we got it covered.”