Remote First Nations will be prioritized in rollout of COVID-19 treatment drug, Indigenous Services Canada says

This image provided by Pfizer shows the company's COVID-19 Paxlovid pills. (Pfizer via AP, File)

People living in remote, isolated Indigenous communities, who are at greater risk of getting COVID-19, have been prioritized to receive some of the first shipments of a newly approved Pfizer drug to treat the illness, according to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC).

 “We’ve worked with our colleagues at public health agencies, provinces and territories in order to prioritize the allocation,” said ISC Chief Medical Officer of Public Health Dr. Tom Wong during a virtual news conference on Thursday.

Pfizer's Paxlovid is an oral antiviral treatment prescribed by a doctor and administered in pill form. It’s an antiviral treatment of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, it can reduce symptoms from and shorten the period of illness.

Health Canada approved the treatment drug for use in adults 18 and older and is receiving its first shipment of 30,000 treatment courses of Paxlovid product this week.

Of those 30,000, 1,300 treatment courses are set aside for remote isolated nursing stations and are to be administered to “individuals who are at high risk for developing complications and progression to severe infection,” said Wong.

A Pfizer study shows that Paxlovid reduced risk of hospitalization or death by 89 per cent.

ISC says they’ve also provided First Nations with additional PPE, vaccine and rapid test kits.

Wong said ISC will continue to work with First Nations communities and public health to increase vaccination rates among the Indigenous population in Canad indigenous services a.

“It’s very effective in protecting, reducing the risk of ICU admissions and fatality,” said Wong.

He says vaccination alone is not enough to fight coronavirus and First Nations communities should not loosen any preventative measures that are in place.

“Relaxing public health measures will really invite the virus to enter into communities and infect more and more people,” Wong said.

Wong acknowledges the hospitalization rates for Indigenous people with COVID-19 are higher than the general population.

“All the social determinants of health and gaps in services, they must be addressed,” Wong said.

 

 

 

 

On Wednesday, Indigenous Services Canada minister Patty Hajdu also announced $125 million in COVID-19 public health funding for First Nations to assist with pandemic response measures. This may include administration of vaccinations, surge infrastructure, food security for those in self-isolation and pandemic response plans.

 

“The Indigenous Community Support Fund also remains accessible for needs-based funding requests, and our regional offices remain available to assist First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities and organizations,” Hajdu said.