Ontario Expanding Access to COVID-19 Antivirals
TORONTO — As part of its plan to stay open and manage COVID-19 for the long-term, the Ontario government is expanding eligibility for COVID-19 antiviral treatments and PCR testing to more high-risk individuals. Doing so will offer increased protection to the most vulnerable and ensure hospital capacity remains stable.
“I am pleased that we will be able to offer more accessible antiviral treatment options to more people across Ontario,” said Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health. “I ask everyone across Ontario to continue doing their part to keep their communities and loved ones safe by staying up to date on vaccinations and wearing masks.”
Effective immediately, the following higher-risk groups are eligible to be tested and assessed for antiviral treatments, such as Paxlovid, in Ontario:
- Individuals aged 18 and over who are immunocompromised (have an immune system that is weakened by a health condition or medications);
- Individuals aged 70 and over;
- Individuals aged 60 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses; and
- Individuals aged 18 and over with fewer than three vaccine doses and at least one risk condition (e.g., a chronic medical condition)
Anyone who is eligible for an assessment is now also eligible for a PCR test at any testing centre in Ontario.
Beginning April 12, Ontario is making it easier for eligible individuals with a prescription to access antivirals by expanding dispensing locations to include participating pharmacies across the province. A list of pharmacies that are dispensing Paxlovid will be available at Ontario.ca/antivirals as of Wednesday, April 13 at 8:00 a.m. The list will be regularly updated as the list of participating pharmacies expands.
Treatment for antivirals must be started within five days of symptoms in most cases. Individuals who are part of higher risk groups and who have COVID-19 symptoms should immediately seek testing and care, by contacting their health care provider or visiting a clinical assessment centre. Individuals can contact Telehealth Ontario at 1-866-797-0000 for more information about where to find a clinical assessment centre or to determine if they are at higher risk.
Individuals can access Ontario’s antiviral screener tool to help determine if they are at higher risk and should be assessed for treatment. A positive rapid antigen test, PCR or rapid molecular test is required as part of the assessment for antiviral treatment. Rapid antigen tests remain available for pick up at no charge from over 3,000 retail locations in the province. Clinical assessment centres continue to be available to assess and test patients as well as to prescribe and dispense antivirals.
The province is also working with health system partners and health care providers to also prioritize groups that may be at increased risk due to other health-related factors and barriers to health care including First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals, Black individuals and members of other racialized communities. Health care providers may also determine if antiviral treatment is appropriate for patients based on individual circumstances even if they do not belong to one of the groups listed.
“Thanks to the millions of Ontarians who were vaccinated, we have been able to cautiously and safely reopen our province,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “By expanding access to antivirals and PCR testing, in addition to recently expanding eligibility for fourth doses, we are using every tool available to us to ensure Ontarians have the best protection available while we adapt to managing and living with COVID-19.”
Ontario is able to expand access to antiviral treatments as a regular supply of Paxlovid is expected throughout the rest of the year. With this stable supply, Ontario is making it easier for people to be assessed in person or virtually by a prescriber, and prescriptions can be filled conveniently at participating community pharmacies.
- The oral antiviral Paxlovid, manufactured by Pfizer, was approved by Health Canada on January 17, 2022.
- Treatment with Paxlovid must begin within five days of symptom onset.
- A health care provider needs to determine whether antiviral treatment is right for an individual, including for individuals who do not belong to one of the eligible groups, based on individual circumstances.
- To get assessed, individuals can visit a clinical assessment centre or contact their primary care provider.
- Eligible individuals will be able to book their fourth dose appointment through the COVID-19 vaccination portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900, directly through public health units that use their own booking systems, through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics, participating pharmacies, and participating primary care settings. Booster doses are being offered to these individuals at a recommended interval of five months after receiving their last booster.
- Data suggests that Moderna may provide a stronger protection for older adults eligible for fourth doses, speak with a health care provider or immunizer if you have any questions about COVID-19 vaccine products.
- Ontarians can access free rapid testing kits for at-home use. A list of participating retailers and more information on rapid tests for the general public can be found at Ontario.ca/rapidtest.
- PCR testing is available for eligible individuals at over 200 assessment centres and community labs, and at over 790 participating. pharmacies. Visit Ontario.ca/covidtestinglocations to find a testing location.
- If you test positive on a PCR, rapid molecular or a rapid antigen test, you must isolate, except to seek testing and care. Visit Ontario.ca/exposed to learn more about isolation directions.