With news from Health Canada that a COVID-19 pill called paxlovid has been approved, the President of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency notes that this is a tool in the fight against the pandemic, and not the answer for everyone. Marlo Pritchard explains that the medication stops the virus from multiplying, and it will be used for those who test positive and are at risk of a severe outcome. Eligibility criteria and distribution will be announced in the coming days, but he emphasizes that for most people, this treatment will not replace vaccinations.
Dr. Satchan Takaya, an infectious disease specialist with Saskatchewan Health Authority says the province has administered about 50 doses of a different treatment, a monoclonal antibody called citrovamab. It is offered to the unvaccinated who are at risk of progression to severe disease, and to those who are immunocompromised, if they are within seven days of symptom onset and haven’t been hospitalized. Anyone who thinks they need it, is asked to call the HealthLine 811.
Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, says this province is two to three weeks behind the U.K., the U.S. and other provinces when it comes to the Omicron variant, so Public Health is able to predict when this peak of COVID-19 will be. We can expect a peak in the next two to four weeks, beginning first in Regina and Saskatoon, and then into more rural areas and the north.
Hospitalizations peak about one to two weeks later, so we can expect to see an increase in hospitalizations over the next six weeks. Dr. Shahab says individually, we all need to take measures to make sure our peak is as low and broad as possible so it doesn’t happen at the same time across the province. That includes sticking to your bubbles as much as possible, wearing your best mask and getting vaccinated including your booster shot.
A question that Dr. Shahab often gets is “do COVID-19 vaccinations prevent mild illness? He says that with the Omicron variant, having your booster shot can reduce transmission risk, but if you have just the two doses your risk of getting a mild illness is the same as for those who are unvaccinated. However, having two doses will help to protect you against severe illness and getting a booster adds on to that protection against hospitalizations.
There were 15 COVID ICU admissions in December. Almost 67 per cent were unvaccinated, 20 per cent had had their second shot and just over 13 per cent had their booster.
Here is a review of COVID-19 in Saskatchewan for December: COVID Vaccine and Severe Outcomes_DEC 2021
STICK IT TO COVID: EXPANDING TREATMENT OPTIONS
On January 17, Health Canada approved the use of Paxlovid, a new antiviral drug made by Pfizer. This is the first Health Canada-approved oral antiviral (pill) for COVID-19, recommended for people who test positive and are at high risk of severe outcomes including hospitalization or death.
Paxlovid is taken twice a day for five days by those with COVID-19. It stops the virus from multiplying, to help people overcome the infection and potentially recover faster.
Saskatchewan expects to receive a shipment of Paxlovid this week. Quantities are expected to be limited at first and will increase throughout the year. Details on eligibility criteria and how to access this medication will be provided in the coming days.
Update to Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Eligibility
Saskatchewan offers monoclonal antibody treatment for eligible residents who have received a positive test result on either a rapid antigen test or a PCR test as a tool to help prevent serious COVID-19 outcomes.
You are eligible if you have a positive test result and:
- Have not been vaccinated or are immunocompromised regardless of vaccination status; AND
- Are within seven days of becoming symptomatic; AND
- Are 55 years or older or 18 years and older with specific high-risk co-morbidity.
Previously, the requirement had been within five days of becoming symptomatic.
If you meet these requirements, you may be referred for treatment. Call HealthLine 811 or 306-766-6388 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., seven days a week to speak with a clinician regarding monoclonal antibodies.
Treatment is No Substitute for Vaccination
While Saskatchewan supports new treatments for those most at risk for severe COVID-19 illnesses, vaccination remains the best tool available to prevent hospitalizations and death due to COVID-19. Immunization does not offer absolute protection against COVID-19 but improves your body’s defense against the virus. It is safe and effective.
All Saskatchewan residents age five and older are eligible to be fully vaccinated, and residents age eighteen and older are eligible for third/booster doses. Certain at-risk populations are now also eligible for fourth doses. For more information on the third/booster dose eligibility, see Saskatchewan.ca/covid-19.
There are more than 30,000 COVID-19 immunization appointments available through the Saskatchewan Health Authority clinics in addition to those offered by pharmacies throughout the province. Stick it to COVID and book your immunization today.
COVID-19 Summary for January 18, 2022:
- From January 12 – January 18, 15,309 first and second doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been given in Saskatchewan, bringing the total number of primary series vaccines administered in the province to 1,834,160.
- An additional 42,538 third and fourth doses have been administered in the province from January 12 – January 18, bringing the total number of vaccines including boosters administered in the province to 2,251,572. Forty-four per cent of eligible residents age 18+ have now received their booster dose.
- As of January 18, 88 per cent of residents 12 years and older and 85 per cent of residents five years older have received their first dose. Eighty-four per cent of residents 12 years and older and 78 per cent of residents five years and older are fully vaccinated.
- There were 8,533 new cases of COVID-19 to report in Saskatchewan from January 12 – January 18, bringing the provincial total to 102,641 cases. There were 5,670 recoveries recorded during the same period.
- The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan is currently 1,219 (101.2/100,000).
- Zero new deaths were reported January 12 – January 18.
- There were 452 new lineage results reported for January 12 – January 18.
- As of January 18, 189 individuals are hospitalized including 171 inpatient hospitalizations and 18 ICU hospitalizations. Of the 189 patients, 67 (35.4 per cent) were not fully vaccinated.
- Since October 25, 57 monoclonal antibody infusion treatments have been delivered.
- From January 12 – January 18, there were 25,804 COVID-19 tests processed in Saskatchewan