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New COVID therapies make a world of difference for Island Health patients

Outpatient clinics in Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni and Campbell River offering treatments
Island Health has a supply of Pfizer COVID-19 Paxlovid pills, one of two new therapeutic treatments being used for high-risk patients and people not fully vaccinated. The drug was approved by Health Canada on Jan. 17. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-HO, Pfizer)

Island Health has drastically improved its COVID-19 patient recovery outcomes in recent weeks with the use of two therapeutic treatment options.

Sotrovimab, an antibody administered intravenously in an outpatient clinic, and Paxlovid, a pill that can be taken from home, were approved by Health Canada as COVID-19 therapies on July 30 and Jan. 17, respectively.

Outpatient clinics for Island Health have recently been established in Victoria, Nanaimo, Port Alberni and Campbell River, and more than 200 sotrovimab infusions have taken place. The health authority’s supply of Paxlovid is in the thousands, Dr. Eric Partlow said during a March 14 press conference, noting that hundreds of thousands of doses have been distributed nationally by Health Canada.

“By exploring the use of these new therapies, we’re helping high-risk people in our communities recover better, faster and with fewer symptoms. It’s through these innovations we’re giving people their lives back, without the need for a lengthy hospital inpatient stay and complications that partner with a progression of the disease,” said B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix in a press release.

Since the treatments are only effective five to seven days following the appearance of COVID symptoms in a patient with a positive diagnosis, people who have COVID symptoms and are either immunocompromised or not fully vaccinated should seek out testing immediately, according to Island Health. The health authority recommended using the province’s recently launched online assessment tool ( or calling 1-888-COVID19 (1-888-268-4319) to determine the necessity of either of the treatments.

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Chris Daw, a 52-year-old Paralympic athlete from Victoria who has a rare form of sleep apnea and not long ago had gallbladder surgery, said he couldn’t believe the therapy’s effectiveness.

“I went from feeling like I had the flu with a massive headache, lower back pain, a clogged ear and being super tired to feeling 90 per cent myself within three hours of the treatment,” he said in the release. Without the treatment, “I would probably be in the hospital on a ventilator fighting for my life.”

Partlow said neither treatment is suitable for everyone, and both must be prescribed so healthcare providers can monitor interactions with other conditions. While the first line of defence against infection remains getting vaccinated, he said, anyone declared clinically extremely vulnerable who is experiencing COVID symptoms should ensure they get tested quickly.

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