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Who can get COVID-19 pill Paxlovid in New Brunswick?

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WATCH: Doctors call for better access to COVID-19 treatment drug Paxlovid – Apr 23, 2022

The COVID-19 medication Paxlovid was approved by Health Canada in January but odds are you wouldn’t be able to walk out of a New Brunswick pharmacy with it today.

The Pfizer-made antiviral pill is designed to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death for vulnerable people who catch COVID-19.

It’s prescribed by primary care providers and available at pharmacies at no cost.

Read more: Could Paxlovid help treat long COVID? Here’s what we know

Eligibility for the pill, though, is still narrower in New Brunswick than in some neighbouring provinces.

“It’s still very much an unfolding treatment across the province,” says Kevin Duplisea, a pharmacist in Sussex and board member with the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association.

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The association says it meets regularly with public health concerning issues related to the pandemic and has met to talk about Paxlovid’s rollout.

Currently in the province, the following groups are deemed eligible for the drug:

  • Those 50 years old and older who have not been fully vaccinated,
  • Those 50 years old and older who live in long-term care, receive home care or live in a First Nations community,
  • People 18 years old and older with immune systems compromised by active or recent cancer treatment, a solid organ transplant, stem cell transplant, advanced or untreated HIV infection, etc.

Except in the case of those living amidst an outbreak in any long-term care setting, New Brunswick requires COVID-19 infection to be confirmed with a PCR test before a Paxlovid prescription can be obtained.

It is the only Atlantic province not to accept rapid tests. The time needed to book, take and acquire the results from a PCR test could potentially cut down on crucial treatment time.

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

Duplisea says his pharmacist has no active prescriptions for Paxlovid, due in part to Public Health’s stringent criteria.

“In the very beginning I had one prescription, a few weeks ago, but that person did not meet the criteria and they were referred on,” he says.

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He says it should be regarded as just one tool in the toolbelt used to combat COVID-19 and that, even if you’re eligible, you should prioritize protecting yourself from ever catching it in the first place.

“The main point that I want to share with New Brunswickers is, although it’s available and that’s wonderful, it’s not a magic bullet,” says Duplisea.

“It does not replace basic hand hygiene, wearing a mask and getting all your shots against COVID-19.”

In a statement sent to Global News Friday, a spokesperson for Public Health says 682 New Brunswickers have so far been prescribed Paxlovid.

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