Health Canada added another tool to its pandemic-fighting arsenal Monday, approving Pfizer's antiviral treatment for COVID-19 as the rapid spread of the Omicron variant continued to tax the country's health-care system and millions of students returned to in-person learning.
The agency authorized Paxlovid for adult patients with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are also at high risk of becoming more seriously ill. Health Canada did not authorize it for use on teenagers or on patients who are already hospitalized because of COVID-19.
Hospitalizations continued to rise Monday as Ontario reported 578 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units and 3,887 in hospital overall, up from 3,595 a day before. Quebec, meanwhile, reported 3,381 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, including 286 in ICU.
The Pfizer pill uses a combination of two antiviral drugs to prevent the virus that causes COVID-19 from replicating once it has infected a patient.
(2/5) The combination of two antiviral drugs, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (brand name PAXLOVIDTM), is authorized to treat mild to moderate #Covid19 in adults at high risk of progressing to serious disease, including hospitalization or death.— Health Canada and PHAC (@GovCanHealth) January 17, 2022
News of the authorization came as Canadian students in four provinces returned to in-person learning, though a heavy winter snow storm in Ontario meant another virtual school day for many.
Students in Quebec, Manitoba and Nova Scotia also returned to class after starting the new year online because of record-high case counts. The provinces switched to remote learning to take pressure off the health-care system and give schools more time to improve safety measures.