Newly approved COVID-19 medications are available in Windsor, but only to people in select high-risk groups.
Windsor Regional Hospital on Friday announced it received the green light to administer an anti-viral medication for COVID-19 approved by Health Canada earlier this month called Paxlovid, and Sotrovimab, an antibody treatment approved last year.
Only people who meet specific criteria and who are within five days of symptom onset can receive either medication, both of which are in short supply. Clinical trials show the medications are effective in preventing severe health outcomes that require hospitalization, but only if administered within the first few days of infection.
The eligible groups are:
- immunocompromised individuals aged 18 and older regardless of vaccine status
- unvaccinated individuals aged 60 and over
- unvaccinated First Nation, Inuit, and Métis individuals aged 50 and over
- unvaccinated individuals aged 50 and over with one or more risk factors, including obesity, dialysis or Stage 5 kidney disease, diabetes, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability of any severity, sickle cell disease, receiving active cancer treatment, and solid organ or stem cell transplant recipients.
Dr. Wassime Saad, the hospital’s chief of staff, said he expects the eligibility criteria established by the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table to expand once a larger supply of the medications becomes available globally. Until then, the people who do qualify should seek treatment.
“Give yourself the best chance at keeping yourself out of the hospital and out of the ICU,” Saad said.
Both drugs must be administered while symptoms are mild to moderate. While most people with COVID-19 recover, for older people and the severely immunocompromised, “it’s really hard to predict which way the infection is going to break for you,” Saad. said. “You could recover completely with no ill effects or you could end up going in hospital. I think it’s better not to take the chance.”
Saad expects to see one or two people receive the new treatment each day at Windsor Regional Hospital under the current eligibility restrictions.
“If you qualify, show up,” said David Musyj, the hospital’s president and CEO, who noted that, in general, older unvaccinated people who catch COVID tend to wait a while before visiting the hospital.
“Because of this, they don’t have time (for the medication). If they’re interested in this, they’ve got to come within the first five days.”
Paxlovid is an anti-viral treatment in pill form for high-risk patients, while Sotrovimab is an antibody intravenous treatment. Both are for people with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms, and both are administered to outpatients only. Inpatients with COVID-19 receive different medications.
Area family physicians have been notified of the medications’ availability and will refer patients who qualify for treatment to Windsor Regional Hospital. Referred patients will receive a call from a hospital physician within 24 hours for a phone consultation to confirm their eligibility before they attend the hospital for treatment.
Those who believe they qualify and have tested positive for COVID-19, either with a PCR test or a rapid antigen test, can also book an appointment for treatment with the hospital directly by calling 519-973-4443, or visiting wrh.on.ca/OnlineBooking and selecting “COVID-19 Clinical Assessment.” They too will be assessed by phone before being given an appointment for treatment.
So far, Windsor Regional Hospital has administered the new medications to one or two people.
Neither treatment is a replacement for vaccination, the hospital brass said.
“There is no substitute for vaccination whatsoever,” said Saad. “The best way out of this is through prevention. Vaccination is our best chance of preventing further infection and severe infection. Having these drugs in our arsenal is an added bonus, but it is certainly not the golden ticket or the silver bullet.”