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Ontario expands PCR testing and treatments for COVID-19. This is who's eligible

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The Ontario government is making antiviral treatments and PCR testing for COVID-19 more widely available as the province grapples with an increase in infections and hospitalizations.

The new eligibility announced on Monday includes high-risk individuals who are immunocompromised and may be at higher risk of severe side effects after contracting COVID-19.

The following groups are now eligible for PCR testing and assessment for antiviral treatments such as Paxlovid:

  • Individuals aged 18 and up who are immunocompromised
  • Individuals aged 70 and up
  • Individuals aged 60 and up with fewer than three vaccine doses
  • Individuals aged 18 and up with fewer than three vaccine doses and at least one risk condition (For example, a chronic illness, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, ect.)

Individuals can take an online assessment to determine if they are eligible for the treatment.

The province is also allowing select pharmacies to dispense Paxlovid treatments with a prescription starting later this week. A full list of participating pharmacies will be available here at 8 a.m. on Wednesday.

The province said antiviral treatment must begin within five days of symptoms in most cases. A full course of treatment is three pills, twice daily, for five days in a row.

As such, individuals who are part of a higher risk group and who are experiencing symptoms should immediately seek testing and care through their health-care provider or at a clinical assessment centre.

“Antiviral treatment, including the oral antiviral Paxlovid can help to reduce hospitalizations, protect hospital capacity, and protect patients at high risk of severe health outcomes,” Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore said at a news conference held Monday. “Even if you don't have symptoms, talk to your primary care provider in advance to see if the treatment is right for you in the event that you get sick and have a plan.”

“Health-care providers can also determine if antiviral treatment is appropriate for patients based on individual circumstances even if they do not belong to one of the high risk groups.”

Patients can also use a positive rapid antigen test to be considered for antiviral treatment, officials said.

The province says they anticipate a regular supply of Paxlovid, an oral antiviral manufactured by Pfizer and approved by Health Canada earlier this year, throughout 2022.

Prior to today’s announcement, the drug was only available to a select group of people, including immunocompromised adults, unvaccinated people aged 60 and up, and unvaccinated people aged 50 and up if they are Indigenous or have one or more risk factors.

At his first news conference in nearly a month, Moore reiterated the importance of getting vaccinated. Ontario residents aged 60 and up are now being urged to book their fourth doses five months after receiving their third shot.

Moore is also recommending that people continue to wear masks amid Ontario's sixth wave of the pandemic.

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