The Ontario Ministry of Health has announced that pharmacists will now be permitted to prescribe Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment for high-risk individuals that can reduce severe outcomes from COVID-19.

According to the Government of Canada, Paxlovid is an oral medication that stops the virus from multiplying. This helps the body to overcome the virus and may help those infected to feel better faster. Ontario Health reports that in a clinical trial, Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 per cent in people at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19. 

Starting December 12, eligible patients can receive prescription for Paxlovid, either in-person or virtually, at no cost. To qualify for this treatment, you must meet the following criteria:

• Experiencing symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19

• Present a positive COVID-19 test (acceptable tests include a lab-based PCR test, rapid molecular test, rapid antigen test – including those done at home)

• Prescribing occurs within five days of symptom onset

• The individual is:

○ 60 years of age or older

○ 18 years of age or older, and immunocompromised

○ 18 – 59 years old and at a higher risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes (i.e. chronic medical conditions, not up to date on vaccinations)

Paxlovid prescriptions will still be available through physicians, nurse practitioners, and clinical assessment centres across Ontario. For patients with more complex cases, pharmacists may still recommend treatment from one of these alternative providers.

“Authorizing pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid will expand access and offer increased protection to the most vulnerable and mitigate pressures on the province’s hospital capacity,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Chief Medical Officer of Health.

The provincial government strongly encourages Ontarians to stay up-to-date with their vaccinations, indicating that shots and boosters remain the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19. They also endorse the annual flu vaccination as we progress through the respiratory illness season.

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