Haines Junction resident frustrated by lack of availability of Paxlovid

People in Yukon communities are still waiting to access Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment for adults who are at high risk from COVID-19. The drug was authorized by Health Canada in January 2022.

Territorial government says it is in final stages of rolling out the antiviral pills

Aynslie Ogden had to travel two hours from Haines Junction to Whitehorse to be assessed by a doctor to see if she was a candidate for Paxlovid, an oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19 for adults who are at high risk. (Submitted by Aynslie Ogden)

A Haines Junction resident is wondering why the Yukon government hasn't rolled out a treatment that helps fight off some of the worst symptoms of COVID-19.

Aynslie Ogden is in her 50s, has asthma and although she's triple vaccinated, she recently tested positive for COVID-19.

She said she's feeling better now but wanted to know if she was a candidate for Paxlovid, an antiviral pill made by Pfizer to treat COVID-19 that can be especially beneficial to people who are immunocompromised or have conditions that make them vulnerable to the disease and to hospitalization.

Health Canada approved Paxlovid this past January. 

Out of the one million treatments in the country, a large portion were meant to be for rural and remote communities where there's limited access to care.

Yet, more than two months later, Yukoners can't access the medicine.

"I just kind of gave up," said Ogden, who called multiple professionals in the territory to find out if she was qualified for the oral drug.

Final steps

A spokesperson for the Yukon government's Department of Health and Social Services confirmed it has doses but hasn't made them available yet.

It said it is in the final stages of making the pills available to Yukoners through the emergency departments of the territory's three hospitals in Whitehorse, Dawson City and Watson Lake.

Dr. Sudit Ranade, the Yukon's acting chief medical officer of health, told CBC News the hold up in rolling out the drug across the territory is linked to clinical assessments.

He said patients need to be assessed before being prescribed Paxlovid.

"It is a combination of antiviral medications that actually has lots of interactions with common medications that people take," he said.

"It is about making sure that somebody is working with the potential patient to make sure that the medicine is going to do more good than harm."