Ontario expanding access to COVID-19 antiviral treatments

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore provides COVID-19 update at Queens Park, Toronto, on April 11, 2022. Image courtesy CPAC/YouTube.

More Ontarians who are at risk for contracting COVID-19 will be given access to long-term antiviral treatments.

Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore, in his first public remarks in over a month, announced Monday afternoon the expansion of accessibility to antiviral medication for certain high-risk groups, and confirmed that the province is in a sixth wave.

“The virus continues to circulate and evolve,” said Moore. “Learning to live with COVID and the expected rise in COVID cases because of the highly transmissible B.2 variant, it is strongly recommended for all of us to screen daily for any symptoms of COVID-19, stay at home when you’re sick, even with mild symptoms; wear a mask, especially in indoor public settings. A booster dose can save your life.”

The groups eligible for treatments of antivirals, such as Paxlovid, include anyone 18 and older who is immunocompromised, residents 70 and older, residents 60 and older with fewer than three COVID-19 vaccine doses, and residents 18 and over with fewer than three doses, plus a risk condition.

Also, the Ministry of Health announced that rapid antigen tests will remain readily available for residents, as those tests are a requirement for antiviral assessment. The tests can still be picked up free of charge at over 3,000 locations across Ontario.

The sixth wave is taking place at a time when Dr. Moore had largely been out of the public eye. When asked by reporters Monday afternoon about his absence as cases have been rising again, Moore did not address his absence directly but rather reminded people that the data was always publicly accessible.

“As you know, at my last press conference, I told you I’d come out if there was an issue,” said Moore, continuing to urge Ontarians to get vaccinated and boosted if eligible.

The expansion of pharmacies dispensing Paxlovid is set to begin Tuesday, according to Moore. A list of those pharmacies will be on the official provincial website starting Wednesday.