Pfizer to distribute antiviral drug as Beijing wave of Covid overwhelms healthcare system

Pfizer to distribute antiviral drug as Beijing wave of Covid overwhelms healthcare system
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Beijing will begin distributing Pfizer’s Covid-19 drug Paxlovid to the city’s community health centers in the coming days, state media reported on Monday.

Report comes as the city grapples with it an unprecedented wave infections that severely strain hospitals and empty pharmacy shelves.

The state-run China News Service reported on Monday that community doctors, after receiving training, will administer the drug to Covid-19 patients and provide instructions on how to use it.

A worker at a local public health center in Beijing’s Xicheng district said, “We have received notifications from the authorities, but it is not clear when the drugs will arrive.”

Paxlovid remains the only foreign drug to treat Covid that has been approved for nationwide use by China’s regulatory agency, but access is extremely difficult. When a Chinese health platform introduced the antiviral drug earlier this month, it sold out within hours.

Azvudine, an oral medication developed by China’s Genuine Biotech, has also been approved.

After nearly three years of lockdown, quarantine and mass testing, China abruptly abandoned its zero Covid policy this month, following nationwide protests due to its heavy economic and social cost.

The sudden lifting of restrictions led to panicked purchases of fever and cold medicines, leading to widespread shortages in both pharmacies and online shopping platforms. Long queues in front of fever clinics and hospital wards overflowing with patients have become routine in the capital Beijing and elsewhere in the country.

An emergency room doctor in Beijing told the state-owned People’s Daily on Thursday that the four doctors on his shift didn’t have time to eat or drink. “We are constantly seeing patients,” he said.

Another emergency room doctor told the newspaper that he was working despite developing symptoms of fever. “The pressure is increasing with the high number of patients and fewer medical staff,” the doctor said.

In a sign of the pressure on Beijing’s healthcare system, hundreds of healthcare professionals from all over China have traveled to the city to assist medical centers.

As the capital, Beijing has some of the best medical resources in the country. However, the sudden zero Covid u-turn has left people and healthcare facilities unprepared to deal with the rise in infections.

China’s official Covid case count became meaningless after it reinstated mass testing and allowed residents to use antigen tests and isolate them at home. It stopped reporting asymptomatic cases, recognizing that it is no longer possible to track the actual number of infections.

according to a internal forecast According to information from the National Health Commission, approximately 250 million people in China contracted Kovid in the first 20 days of December – roughly 18% of the country’s population.

Experts have warned that as people in major cities return to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year next month, the virus could ravage large rural areas of China, where vaccination rates are lower and medical resources are severely lacking.

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