A 100-year-old St. John's man who had previously been denied access to the COVID-19 anti-viral drug Paxlovid will be able to get the drug for treatment, according to an update from his daughter on Tuesday afternoon.
Deon's daughter, Jenn Deon, told CBC News that a prescription for Paxlovid was authorized by both Eastern Health and Public Health based on "a review of the clinical assessment of his nurse practitioner." Deon previously didn't fit the provincial guidelines for accessing the drug, due to him being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Deon, one of the province's last remaining veterans of the Second World War, is doing OK since testing positive, Jenn said, who tested positive herself nine days earlier. Her father also has emphysema, putting him at a higher risk of a severe health outcome.
The family created a plan with Deon's nurse practitioner in the event he tested positive, which included a recommendation for Paxlovid.
But after he tested positive on Monday, and the authorization form to prescribe Paxlovid was sent to a special care pharmacy, Deon said she was shocked to see what came back.
"Her recommendation for him to go on this drug was denied," she said Monday. "And when she called to ask them about it and to advocate for him to go on it, they refused. They indicated dad is not qualified because he is fully vaccinated."
Paxlovid is designed to keep those at high risk of COVID-19 out of hospital, as long as it is prescribed early enough.
According to current provincial guidelines, Paxlovid is only available to people who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated and are not in hospital, along with anyone who tests positive and shows symptoms within five days of requesting the drug. Those over the age of 80 can only access the drug if their vaccinations aren't up to date, including a booster dose.
Despite a successful result for her father, Deon says she believes all seniors should be able to access Paxlovid if they test positive for the virus.
"I'm not the only child with an aged parent who has COVID or is going to get COVID," she said. "If their doctors feel that they should have access to the anti-viral, I think it's important to speak out so our governments can thoughtfully look at this and hopefully change the policy in time to save some lives."
In an interview in January, Eastern Health Infectious Disease Doctor Peter Daley told CBC News the drug should mostly be given to unvaccinated people as they are at the highest risk of being hospitalized. Twenty-eight per cent of the province's hospitalizations since February 2021 have been unvaccinated people.
There's also a limited supply in the province. The Department of Health said in a statement that 3,100 treatment courses have been sent to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Only 216 of those cycles have been used, the department said, adding no one who has used the drug has ended up in hospital.
More 'wiggle room' needed in decision making: Nurse
June Tavenor, a registered nurse and CEO of Catalyst Health Solutions — who employs Deon's primary health-care provider — also hopes the government will change its guidelines around the drug to make it more accessible to seniors.
"It's one of those situations where you want to ensure an early intervention for a better outcome for the patient," Tavenor said. "We certainly know that the Department of Health and Public Health…have been quite busy, but hopefully this is an opportunity to say that perhaps the criteria needs to be reexamined."
Tavenor said she and other health-care professionals want to support government's policy as best they can, but also want to make sure all people can avail of the best care possible — adding she would like to see more "wiggle room" for clinical decisions when it comes to policy-making.
"We want to make sure that we are in the interest of supporting the public health system and primary care providers, that we really put some emphasis back to the physicians and the nurse practitioners who are providing this primary care and do know a little more of the nuances around these patients."
The provincial Department of Health has engaged with Deon's family, according to a statement, adding "eligibility criteria for prescribing Paxlovid is based on national guidance."
The criteria are "regularly reviewed and updated as needed to reflect current guidance," the statement said.
CBC News has also contacted Eastern Health for comment.