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COVID-19 Treatments

Antiviral medications may be used in early treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 illness in unvaccinated and certain vaccinated patients who are at high risk for progression to severe illness that may require hospitalization.

Antiviral treatments Paxlovid™ and remdesivir help reduce the viral load of COVID-19 virus in the body. They are not used to prevent COVID-19 infection before you test positive. Treatments are only effective when initiated in the very early phase of infection.

While most vaccinated people have enough immunity to fight COVID-19 infection, those that are unvaccinated, have a weaker immune system or are 70 years and older and at high risk of severe outcomes may benefit from antiviral therapy reducing the viral load that the immune system has to overcome.

Note: As of April 7, 2022, the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab was suspended for use in Saskatchewan due to its reduced efficacy against Omicron's BA.2 subvariant. Future recommendations regarding the use of sotrovimab and early therapeutics will continue to be guided by emerging evidence.

Treatment for COVID-19 is Not a Substitute for Vaccination

Treatment for COVID-19 does not offer equal protection to vaccination. Getting your first, second and all recommended booster doses remains the most important intervention to reduce risk of hospitalization and other severe outcomes from COVID-19. Find a vaccination clinic near you.

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1. Antiviral medications: Paxlovid™

Treatment with Paxlovid must start within five days of symptom onset. The medication consists of three tablets taken every 12 hours for five days.

The decision to prescribe an antiviral medication will be made by a pharmacists or HealthLine 811 taking into consideration patient risks, current medications, and underlying conditions.

Paxlovid Eligibility

Eligibility criteria is fairly strict and residents will be screened by their participating pharmacist, physician, nurse practitioner or through HealthLine 811 to ensure they meet the criteria.

Paxlovid is only recommended for adults over 18 who:

  • test positive (PCR or rapid test) with mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms;
  • are within five days of developing symptoms;
  • do not have any medical conditions that would make treatment inappropriate;
  • are not taking any medications that may cause potential drug interactions; and
  • if you are immunocompromised, regardless of vaccination status;
  • 70 years and older with designated risk factors, regardless of vaccination status or
  • meet one of the following criteria:
    • have a medical condition that puts you at high risk and are not fully vaccinated; or
    • are 55 to 69 years old and not fully vaccinated.

If you test positive for COVID-19 on a rapid antigen test or a PCR test and believe you may meet all the criteria for Paxlovid treatment, call a participating pharmacist, HealthLine 811 or a nurse practitioner. Stay home if you are ill and arrange for curbside pickup of medication if possible.

You cannot go directly to a health care provider to receive antiviral medication. You will be provided a prescription based on the eligibility criteria.

Pharmacies with Paxlovid

View map of pharmacies prescribing and dispensing

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2. Antiviral medication: Remdesivir

Treatment with remdesivir must start within seven days of symptom onset. This is an intravenous treatment of at least 60 minutes for three, consecutive days.

The decision to prescribe remdesivir will be made by the treating clinician, taking into consideration patient risks, current medications, and underlying conditions.

Remdesivir Eligibility

A health care provider will review your symptoms, eligibility, and other factors to determine whether this treatment is appropriate.

Remdesivir is only recommended for adults over 18 who:

  • test positive (PCR or rapid test) with mild or moderate COVID-19 symptoms;
  • are within seven days of developing symptoms;
  • do not have any medical conditions that would make treatment inappropriate;
  • are not taking any medications that may cause potential drug interactions; 
  • if you are immunocompromised, regardless of vaccination status;
  • 70 years and older with designated risk factors, regardless of vaccination status or
  • meet one of the following criteria:
    • have a medical condition that puts you at high risk and are not fully vaccinated; or
    • are 55 to 69 years old and not fully vaccinated.

If you test positive for COVID-19 on a rapid antigen test or a PCR test and believe you may meet all the criteria for COVID-19 treatment, call HealthLine 811. You will receive additional screening and be referred appropriately.

You cannot receive remdesivir directly from your primary health care provider or through pharmacists. You must be referred based on the eligibility criteria.

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3. Risk Factors that may affect your eligibility

Additional risk factors for those who are not fully vaccinated may include:

  • Diabetes
  • Body mass index greater than 30 kg/m2
  • Chronic kidney disease with eGFR greater than 30 mL/min/1.73m2
  • Cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease (eg. Coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation, high cholesterol, past stroke)Chronic lung disease (e.g. COPD, moderate to severe asthma, cystic fibrosis, pulmonary fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension) Neurodevelopmental disorders (e.g. cerebral palsy, Downs syndrome)
  • Sickle cell disease

People who are fully vaccinated but otherwise immunocompromised could also be eligible for COVID-19 treatment. Immunocompromised conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • People in active treatment for cancer
  • Solid-organ transplant or hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients
  • People with a moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency
  • People taking immunosuppressive medication such as high-dose corticosteroids, biologic agents, alkylating agents and anti-metabolites

If you think you are eligible or if you have further questions, please call Healthline 811 to speak with a nurse.

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