OTTAWA, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Canada on Monday approved Pfizer
Inc's oral antiviral treatment for mild to moderate
cases of COVID-19 in adults, but said global supply shortages
meant only a few doses would be ready now.
Rising infections and hospitalizations due the Omicron
variant are forcing provinces to put in restrictions and the
federal government to support impacted businesses. Officials
predict COVID-19 cases will soar in coming weeks.
"(This approval) is particularly important, as access to
easy to use treatments could help to reduce the severity of
COVID-19 in adults who become newly infected," chief public
health officer Theresa Tam told reporters.
Ottawa said last month it had signed a deal with Pfizer for
a million treatment courses, pending approval. A global shortage
means only a fraction will arrive soon.
Canada has received 30,400 courses and officials said it
will take delivery of another 120,000 by end-March.
"We're among the first countries to have approved the
medication but also to have received the medication ...
competition is high and we are doing a good job," Federal Health
minister Jean-Yves Duclos told a separate briefing.
Pfizer's two-drug antiviral regimen, Paxlovid, was nearly
90% effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in
patients at high risk of severe illness, according to clinical
It is meant to be taken at home for five days beginning
shortly after onset of symptoms.
Ontario, the most populous of the 10 provinces, is seeing
signs Omicron cases may have peaked, chief medical officer
Kieran Moore told an Ottawa radio station.
Official data show that as of Jan 8, 87.8% of Canadians aged
12 and older had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine.
The U.S. authorized the Pfizer treatment for people ages 12
and older deemed at risk of severe illness last month.
Canada is looking at whether to approve Merck & Co's
oral antiviral pill, molnupiravir, which had less impressive
results than Paxlovid in its pivotal clinical trial.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa and Ismail Shakil in
Bengaluru; Editing by Franklin Paul and Bill Berkrot)