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Health Canada OKs AstraZeneca’s Evusheld drug for COVID-19 prevention

Click to play video: 'AstraZeneca COVID-19 treatment preventative for immunocompromised, unvaccinated, health officials say' AstraZeneca COVID-19 treatment preventative for immunocompromised, unvaccinated, health officials say
WATCH: AstraZeneca COVID-19 treatment preventative for immunocompromised, unvaccinated, health officials say – Feb 25, 2022

Health Canada has approved AstraZeneca’s antibody combination to prevent symptomatic COVID-19 infection in immunocompromised people.

The drug, named Evusheld, is intended for people who cannot receive a typical vaccine or for whom vaccines alone won’t provide enough immunity.

Read more: Paxlovid ‘inaccessible’ to many patients in Canada. Here’s why that needs to change

The drug was not approved as a substitute for vaccination against COVID-19 for most people.

“Both the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada continue to strongly recommend up-to-date vaccination for all eligible Canadians,” Health Canada said in a news release Thursday.

While a vaccine effectively teaches the body to make its own antibodies over a short period of time, AstraZeneca’s product delivers ready-made antibodies to immediately start fighting off the virus.

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The antibodies are delivered as two separate injections, before exposure to COVID-19.

Drug trial data released in November showed an 83 per cent reduction in the risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19, compared to a placebo after about six months.

“For vulnerable populations, such as those who are immune-compromised, Evusheld helps to address an unmet need in the ongoing fight against COVID-19,” said Kiersten Combs, president of AstraZeneca Canada.

Canada has already signed an agreement with AstraZeneca to receive 100,000 doses this year.

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Health Canada has placed conditions on the drug’s approval, including a requirement for AstraZeneca to continuously provide updated information on the safety and efficacy of the antibody combination.

The agency said lab studies show Evusheld is expected to neutralize BA.2, a sublineage of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, which is running rampant in communities across Canada.

The company says health professionals should consider offering a larger dose of the antibodies in areas where Omicron is circulating.

AstraZeneca has been studying the combination as a potential treatment for COVID-19 as well, though the drug has not been approved for that use.

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