– PAXLOVID (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets) will be available on the New Zealand Pharmaceutical Schedule to more people who are vulnerable to severe infection from COVID-19, including those with disabilities and with one or more severe health conditions that have resulted in severe frailty or vulnerability.
– Changes to access criteria are effective from 1 October 2023.
Effective 1 October 2023, Pharmac has expanded access to COVID-19 antiviral treatments for people who are vulnerable to severe illness following COVID-19 infection, including disabled people and people with one or more severe health conditions that have resulted in severe frailty or vulnerability. This expanded access applies to PAXLOVID (nirmatrelvir tablets and ritonavir tablets), and two other antiviral treatments for COVID-19 in New Zealand. The changes reflect feedback received from patients and carers, health practitioners, and Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People in response to a Pharmac consultation ending 21 August 2023.
Krishan Thiru, Pfizer Australia & New Zealand Medical Director said: “As people gather for summer celebrations and travel overseas for holidays, we anticipate a heightened impact of COVID-19 in the community. This widening of eligibility criteria means more Kiwis who are most at risk of severe disease may be able to access PAXLOVID if they test positive for COVID-19”.
PAXLOVID works by slowing or stopping a virus from replicating. This may help reduce symptoms and the risk of significant health complications.
“That is why getting tested for COVID-19 at the first sign of symptoms is particularly important for people who are at higher risk of getting severe illness. If you are COVID-19 positive, speak to your doctor, pharmacist or hauora provider quickly to find out what treatment may be appropriate for you,” Mr Thiru said.
Disability advocate, Huhana Hickey welcomes the widening of the eligibility criteria, providing greater protection for vulnerable Kiwis.
“This expanded access may help provide reassurance for many more New Zealanders, their carers and whānau. While many people are feeling complacent about COVID, this is not the case for many thousands of Kiwis who are living with a disability. It means that people like me who are at higher risk of becoming very sick from COVID-19 can take precautions to try and keep themselves as safe as possible,” Ms Hickey said.
New Zealanders can visit: knowmyrisk.co.nz and complete a short online quiz that determines their risk factors which may make them eligible for a COVID-19 antiviral treatment. Risk factors include being over 65 years of age, Māori and Pasifika people aged over 50, having compromised immunity or having medical conditions, such as diabetes and serious heart conditions, and those living with a disability that requires daily care and support services.
Pharmac published its lists of conditions, identifying people at high risk of severe illness from COVID- 19 infection and people who are severely immunocompromised.
PAXLOVID is fully funded for people with confirmed symptomatic COVID-19, and symptoms started within the last five days, and for those who do not require supplemental oxygen; and any of the following:
– Person is aged 65 years or over; or – Person is Māori or Pacific ethnicity AND aged 50 years or over; or
– Person is aged 50 years or over AND has not completed a primary course (defined as receiving at least two courses of vaccination against COVID-19) of COVID-19 vaccination; or
– Person is immunocompromised (as per Pharmac website) and not expected to reliably mount an adequate immune response to COVID-19 vaccination or SARS-CoV-2 infection, regardless of vaccination status; or
– Person has had a previous admission to Critical Care or High Dependency care directly as a result of COVID-19; or
– Person has Down syndrome; or – Person has sickle cell disease; or – Person receives Disability Support Services funded by Whaikaha – Ministry of Disabled People (previously Ministry of Health); or
– Person has pre-existing high risk due to a health condition and needs direct family, whānau or external disability care most days; or – Person has pre-existing severe frailty and/or vulnerability due to one or more severe health conditions (Health conditions that include severe or very advanced disease including, but not limited to, severe neurological, cardiovascular, renal and respiratory conditions); or
– Person has any combination of three or more high-risk factors for severe illness from COVID-19 (as per Pharmac website); AND
– Not to be used with other COVID-19 antiviral treatments.
To check your risk, visit: www.knowmyrisk.co.nz