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HEALTH MATTERS: COVID antivirals – what you need to know

Late in 2021, the marketplace saw the introduction of newly approved antiviral medications in the battle against COVID-19. The announcements filled the media with new information of the appropriate use and the benefits of the drugs. Gathering several of the reputable sources of information, this article provides an overview of the information.

An antiviral drug is defined by Wikipedia as a class of medication used to treat viral infections. Perhaps you may associate antiviral use in the past with the use of the Fluzone medication in the early onset of influenza. Unlike antibiotics, the antivirals do not destroy the pathogen (virus). Instead they inhibit its development; so theoretically stops it in its tracks.

At this point I would have to say that I do not consider myself an expert in this area. I am simply taking the information gathered and presenting it for your review. There are many credible sources for more detailed information, including Health Canada, Centers for Disease Control and the National Health Institute, just to name a few.

The Government of Canada has listed the approved medications that stop or reduce the production of the virus in human cells or reduce the symptoms of COVID disease. These include Remdesivir (Veklury), Bamlanivimab, Casirivimab and Imdevimab, Sotrovimab and Nirmatrelvir and Ritonavir (Paxlovid).

The treatments can help to prevent severe illness or hospitalizations and are more effective when given early. Generally, this is indicated as within 5 days of symptoms starting. Antiviral medications are used to treat people with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk of severe illness, including hospitalization or death. The clinical trials of these medications were shown to reduce the likelihood of hospitalization or death.

Newfoundland and Labrador has published its recommendations for the use of the Paxloxid treatment. It specifies that you may be eligible if you meet all of the following criteria: you have not been admitted to a hospital, your symptoms started within the last 5 days, you have tested positive for COVID within the last 5 days, you belong to one of the following high-risk groups (immunocompromised, regardless of vaccine status, aged 80 or older and not fully vaccinated, aged 60 or older and not fully vaccinated and residing in a rural or remote community, long term care setting or a member of an Indigenous community), and you do not have a medical condition that would make the treatment inappropriate.

The bottom line? Vaccination is your most important and beneficial tool to prevent hospitalizations and death from COVID-19. Public health measures, including wearing a mask, sanitizing your hands and limiting your social contact are proven and effective measures to prevent the transmission and spread of this virus.

Our province reports on January 31, 2022 that 98.6 percent of eligible people (ages 5 +) have had at least one dose of the COVID vaccine, and 90.7 per cent of those people eligible (ages 5 +) are fully vaccinated.


Joanne Rose is a retired nurse with 35 years of experience in public health, health promotion and protection. She lives off grid in Stephenville, on her farm with her husband Tom, and is lucky enough to be surrounded by family. Health perspectives shared in this column are meant to inspire and inform, but not to replace the advice of your regular healthcare professional.

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