CMOH Moore announces antiviral treatment availability, faces questions

Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH), appeared in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Media Studio today, Monday, Apr. 11, 2022, to announce new measures and reiterate the importance of immunization, masking, and social distancing. He also faced some tough questioning and criticism from the members of the press gathered for the announcement. 

After a notable absence, Dr. Kieran Moore, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, appeared in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario Media Studio to announce that, effective immediately, certain higher-risk groups are eligible to be tested and assessed for antiviral treatments, such as Paxlovid, in Ontario. Screen captured image.

Moore announced that, 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 for antivirals is now also eligible for a PCR test at any testing centre in Ontario.

“I am pleased that we will be able to offer more accessible antiviral treatment options to more people across Ontario,” said Dr. Moore. “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.”

Further, beginning Tuesday, Apr. 12, the province will be expanding antiviral 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, Apr. 13 at 8 a.m. The list will be regularly updated as the list of participating pharmacies expands, the government said.

Individuals can access Ontario’s antiviral screener tool to determine if they are at higher risk and should be assessed for treatment. A positive rapid antigen test, PCR test, or rapid molecular test is required as part of the assessment for antiviral treatment. Rapid antigen tests remain available for pickup at no charge from over 3,000 retail locations in the province, according to the provincial government, noting that clinical assessment centres continue to be available to assess and test patients, as well as to prescribe and dispense antivirals.

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, Moore said.

According to Dr. Moore, treatment with antivirals must be started within five days of symptoms in most cases, and 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.

Previously, Moore had been giving biweekly press conferences to update the province about the pandemic; the briefings, however, were suspended last month with improving viral numbers, and it has been four weeks since Moore has made himself available to the press for questions.  

This lengthy absence was noted by the assembled reporters when, following the announcement, Moore took questions from the press. The Chief Medical Officer explained his absence, saying, “Data has been available to all Ontarians, and many medical officers of health across the health system have been responding to a lot of these questions.”

Though he stopped short of saying he believed the mask mandate should be reinstated in Ontario, Moore recommended strongly that individuals should, “continue wearing a well-fitted, three-layer mask or a medical mask in all public indoor settings. And please continue to respect the ongoing mask requirements that remain in place, including in hospitals and other healthcare settings, long-term care homes and retirement homes, congregate settings that provide care and services to medically- and socially-vulnerable individuals such as children’s treatment centres and shelters, [and] public transit — as well as the federal requirements for returning international travellers.”

With four COVID -19 deaths in KFL&A since Friday, Apr. 8, 2022, and numbers on the rise, the local situation was another cause of concern raised: “What’s happening with Kingston? There are very, very high rates there. What specifically is leading to that happening?”

“So, I think Kingston is at 450 cases per 100,000 today, and they’ve remained at a very high level of detection of cases, as well as infection,” Moore acknowledged. “And yet, I believe today they had nine people in hospital, and 50 per cent of them would be incidental admission, so roughly five admissions to hospital.”

“They [in KFL&A] have one of the highest immunization rates in the province,” he pointed out. “So, it tells you that a strong immunization strategy – strong first dose, second dose, third dose, fourth dose strategy – can prevent the health system impact and can mitigate the negative effects… I look at KFL&A and that gives me hope that in the coming weeks that we as a province can do the same.”

Despite Moore’s assertion that a strong immunization strategy, like that here in KFL&A, can prevent impact on the health system, just days earlier, Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) had urged local residents via social media to exercise caution due to staffing shortages — both related to and not related to COVID-19 — at the local hospitals.

KFL&A Public Health is expected to provide a local COVID-19 update to the media later this week.

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