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Alberta rolling out new COVID-19 treatment in phases; Hinshaw warns it’s no substitute for vaccines

Alberta is starting to administer a new treatment for some COVID-19 patients, but the new tool in the fight against the coronavirus is no substitute for getting a vaccine, the province’s chief medical officer of health said Tuesday.

“Sotrovimab is a new drug that was developed specifically for treating patients with COVID-19 who have mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms,” Dr. Deena Hinshaw told reporters at a news conference in which she provided an update on the province’s pandemic response. “It is the first treatment to be offered to outpatients in Alberta. For maximum effectiveness, it must be administered within five days from when the symptoms begin.

“But let me stress that sotrovimab is not a replacement for COVID-19 vaccines. Albertans are still strongly encouraged to be vaccinated against the virus as vaccines are the most effective method to prevent the serious outcomes from the disease.

“While this medication is helpful, it does not change the fact that vaccines continue to be our most important tool to protect both ourselves and others.”

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READ MORE: Regeneron’s antibody COVID-19 treatment is popular in the U.S. – why not in Canada?

Alberta Health Services’ website also emphasizes that sotrovimab is “not a replacement for COVID-19 vaccination.”

In a statement issued to Global News, AHS said the treatment is currently only being offered to people who are 65 or older and who have not received any doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. It is also being offered to people who have received a solid organ transplant or stem cell transplant, “regardless of vaccination status.”

The monoclonal antibody treatment was approved by Health Canada in late July. AHS’ website notes that “Health Canada has authorized the sale of this drug based on limited clinical testing in humans and/or quality information.”

“Sotrovimab is reported to have the potential to prevent one hospital admission for every 20 patients who receive treatment,” the health authority says.

“The treatment is being rolled out across the province in a phased approach, starting with those at the highest risk of severe outcomes like hospitalization,” Hinshaw said.

She noted that AHS’ EMS mobile integrated health teams have started administering sotrovimab to some eligible patients in their homes. People receiving the treatment in their homes will have it administered through an IV infusion.

Hinshaw noted in Fort McMurray and surrounding areas, people who are eligible for the treatment and who request it will receive it at an AHS clinic.

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READ MORE: Number of Albertans in ICUs with COVID-19 continues to drop Tuesday 

At her news conference on Tuesday, Hinshaw said that while the number of COVID-19 patients in hospital ICUs is declining along with the total number of active coronavirus cases in the province, the the health-care system continues to be significantly strained by the number of people requiring hospital treatment because of the virus.

Watch below: Some recent videos about the COVID-19 situation in Alberta.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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