State gets new COVID medications

Boosters for 12-15 year olds urged

MARQUETTE — Michigan has received its first shipment of new oral medications to treat COVID-19 — paxlovid and molnupiravir — following the recent emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services announced Thursday that these antivirals are designed for the outpatient treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19. Both medications may only be prescribed for a patient by physicians, advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants.

When administered to nonhospitalized patients within five days of symptom onset, these antivirals may reduce symptoms and the risk of hospitalizations and emergency room visits associated with the virus, MDDHS said.

Due to the limited quantity of these drugs, MDHHS has developed eligibility criteria and prescribing requirements for the antivirals.

“The authorization of these new medications provides another important tool to help fight the virus,” MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a statement. “Due to limited availability of these antivirals, health care providers will need to determine the best course of treatment for their patients based on eligibility criteria.

“We ask Michiganders to be patient, as providers will prioritize people at highest risk for developing serious illness from the virus. We are committed to distributing these pills equitably across the state, and access will increase as Michigan receives more allocations from the federal government.”

MDHHS indicated that priority eligibility criteria for therapeutics, including antiviral medications and monoclonal antibody therapy, will remain in effect until supply is able to meet demand and will be periodically reviewed as appropriate.

MDHHS officials continue to strongly recommend getting vaccinated and receiving a booster shot for the best protection against the virus.

“It’s important to remember these drugs are not a substitution for protecting yourself by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in public places,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive, in a statement. “Getting vaccinated continues to be the best protection against severe illness and hospitalization, and we urge all Michiganders over age 5 to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Continue to wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth, test and social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, avoid large gatherings and get vaccinated and boosted if you haven’t already.”

Paxlovid is indicated for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in patients 12 years of age and older who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and who meet the current priority eligibility criteria.

Paxlovid currently has limited availability through selected federally qualified health centers and tribal health centers, as well as selected Meijer pharmacies in southeast and east-central Michigan.

Molnupiravir is indicated for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in adults ages 18 and older who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and only when alternative COVID-19 treatment options authorized by FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate and who meet the current priority eligibility criteria.

Molnupiravir currently has limited availability through all Meijer pharmacies, based on supply, and selected retail pharmacies in areas not served by Meijer, also based on supply.

Treatment with monoclonal antibodies continues to be an important therapy for mild to moderate COVID-19 infection and is preferred over treatment with molnupiravir whenever monoclonal antibody treatment can be readily accessed, MDHHS said.

Based on current evidence, monoclonal antibody therapy is also a comparable alternative to paxlovid for patients who do not have access to the oral medication, have contraindications to the medication such as pregnancy, or are beyond five days but within 10 days of symptom onset.

Treatment with monoclonal antibodies should be considered for patients who are in eligible lower-risk tiers in the priority eligibility criteria, MDHHS said.

Additional information on oral antiviral medications and monoclonal antibody therapy, including priority eligibility criteria based on MDHHS scare resource allocation principles is available at Michigan.gov/ COVIDTherapy.

Boosters urged for

residents ages 12 and up

Following FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approval, the MDHHS is urging all eligible residents ages 12 and up to get the Pfizer-BioNTech booster vaccine if they have received their primary series of COVID-19 vaccines.

Currently, Pfizer-BioNTech is the only authorized vaccine for anyone age 5 through 18.

In addition, the booster is recommended to be taken five months after the primary series instead of six months, according to MDHHS.

Children ages 5 to 11 who have moderately to severely weakened immune systems are encouraged to get an additional dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 28 days after completion of their primary series.

As previously recommended, people with moderately to severely compromised immune systems should receive an additional dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine at least 28 days after a second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, MDHHS said. This additional dose is intended to improve the response of people who are immunocompromised to their initial vaccine series.

“Vaccines are the way out of the pandemic, and we can further protect children ages 12 and up from COVID-19, which continues to surge in our state,” Bagdasarian said. “Keeping our children safe includes getting them vaccinated and boosted, and this in turn will help keep them out of the hospital and alleviate the stress on our health care system.”

MDHHS noted that the COVID-19 Pfizer booster dose may be given at the same time as other vaccines, including the flu vaccine.

Residents should bring their COVID-19 vaccine card or immunization record with them when getting their booster dose, which are available at any vaccine provider.

Downloadable immunization records are accessible for free at the Michigan Immunization Portal. Individuals may visit Michigan.gov/MiImmsportal and upload a valid government-issued photo ID such as a driver’s license, state ID or passport. Individuals with no records in the portal may contact their health care provider or local health department.

To schedule a primary or booster dose of the COVID vaccine, visit vaccines.gov.

Medical official recommends booster for youths

Dr. Pino Colone, president of the Michigan State Medical Society, issued a statement in response to the CDC’s recommendation that vaccinated children between the ages of 12 and 15 receive the Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot.

“The Michigan State Medical Society and our state’s physician community stand with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Medical Association in recommending that eligible, vaccinated children between the ages of 12 and 15 seek out a COVID-19 booster shot,” he said. “With students now back in the classroom and the omicron variant continuing to surge, the extra dose of defense a booster provides is the best way to keep our children and teens protected and safe.

“The evidence is clear: being vaccinated and boosted is the best way to stay protected from the harshest and most dangerous effects of COVID-19. With hospitalizations of children infected with COVID rising across the country, there’s no question getting our children boosted is the best way to ensure our families and loved ones remain safe and healthy.”

Aspirus: Avoid medical misinformation

Aspirus Health, based in Wausau, Wisconsin, urges people to avoid incorrect medical information when it comes to COVID-19.

Dr. Jacob Prunuske, who has been a physician for more than 20 years and has supervised Aspirus physician residents for the past six years, said that being able to identify reliable sources is vital.

“There’s a lot of misinformation on the internet right now and there are ways of identifying it,” Prunuske said in a news release. “What are the credentials of who is providing the information? Does the information align with other sources? And what is the reputation of the source? Can you actually contact the organization or is it just some blog post?”

Additional changes to health and safety guidelines should be expected as it continues to learn more about COVID-19, Aspirus Health officials said in a news release. However, officials stressed that without sufficient communication that provides clarity and context, many people will have had trouble keeping up with changing knowledge and guidance.

“That’s how science works,” Prunuske said. “Over time, we gather more data to make better decisions. I think it’s important for all of us to stay up to date as information evolves.”

Medical misinformation has caused confusion and led people to decline COVID-19 vaccines, reject public health measures and use unproven treatments, Aspirus officials said.

Aspirus provided a list of suggestions that individuals, families and communities can do to help stop the spread of medical misinformation:

≤ Learn how to identify and avoid sharing health misinformation.

≤ Verify the accuracy of information by checking with trustworthy and credible sources. If you’re not sure, don’t share.

≤ Engage with your friends and family on the problem of health misinformation. If someone you care about has a misperception, you might be able to make inroads with them by first seeking to understand instead of passing judgment.

≤ Address health misinformation in your community by working with schools, community groups such as churches and parent-teacher associations, and trusted leaders such as educators and health care professionals, to develop local strategies against misinformation.

“I think the most important thing is to be curious, be inquisitive, be willing to change your views based on data and science,” Prunuske said. “And then check in with your physician or a public health professional to see if you’re heading down the right path.”

Aspirus Health officials recommend that people receive their health information from their local health care providers, reputable news sources and agencies devoted to public health such as state and local health departments, the National Institutes of Health and the CDC, among others.

Christie Mastric can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net


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