Beijing to roll out Pfizer antiviral drug as Covid wave overwhelms healthcare system

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

The report comes as the city struggles an unprecedented wave infections that severely strain hospitals and empty pharmacy shelves.

The state-run China News Service reported on Monday that after training, community doctors will administer the drugs to Covid-19 patients and instruct them on how to use them.

A worker at a local community health center in Beijing’s Xicheng District was quoted as saying: “We have received notification from the authorities, but it is not known when the drugs will arrive.”

Paxlovid remains the only foreign drug to treat Covid approved for nationwide use by the Chinese regulator, but it is notoriously difficult to obtain. When the Chinese healthcare platform offered the antiviral drug earlier this month, it sold out within hours.

Azvudine, an oral drug developed by China Original Biotechnology, has also been approved.

After nearly three years of lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing, China abruptly abandoned its zero-Covid policy this month after nationwide protests over the severe economic and social damage.

The sudden lifting of restrictions led to panic buying of fever and cold medicines, leading to widespread shortages in both pharmacies and online shopping platforms. In the capital Beijing and elsewhere in the country, long queues outside fever clinics and hospital wards are common.

An emergency room doctor in Beijing told the state-run People’s Daily on Thursday that the four doctors on his shift did not have time to eat or drink. “We see patients all the time,” I said.

Another emergency room doctor told the paper that he was working despite having fever symptoms. “The number of patients is high, the pressure is increasing because there are few medical workers,” said the doctor.

In a sign of the strain on Beijing’s medical system, hundreds of health workers from across China traveled to the city to help medical centers.

As the capital city, Beijing has the best medical resources in the country. However, the sharp zero Covid turnaround has made people and healthcare facilities ready to deal with the surge of infections.

China’s official Covid case count has become meaningless since it withdrew mass testing and allowed residents to use antigen tests and isolate at home. He stopped reporting asymptomatic cases, admitting that it is no longer possible to track the current number of infections.

according to internal estimate According to the National Health Commission, in the first 20 days of December, about 250 million people in China were infected with Covid – about 18% of the country’s population.

As people in big cities return to their hometowns for the Lunar New Year next month, the virus could spread to vast rural areas of China, where vaccination rates are low and medical resources are severely lacking, experts warned.

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