A new antiviral drug that can be used to treat COVID-19 will be primarily set aside for use in older unvaccinated individuals and immunocompromised Ontarians.

The Ford government has released new eligibility guidelines that provide the first look at how it will distribute its limited supply of Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill, the first shipment of which arrived in the province last week.

The government says that it is prioritizing individuals at “the highest risk of severe outcomes,” including unvaccinated Ontarians age 60 and up and unvaccinated Ontarians aged 50 and up who also have one or more specific risk factors.

The government will also make all immunocompromised individuals aged 18 and up eligible, regardless of their vaccination status, as well as all unvaccinated First Nation, Inuit and Métis individuals aged 50 and up.

In order to access the drug those eligible will have to first test positive for COVID-19 and the Ford government says that it is now introducing “expanded COVID-19 assessment centres” where Ontarians will be able to access both testing and “outpatient therapeutics,” such as Paxlovid.

It says that the testing centres will have access to multiple testing options, including rapid tests, to asses those who may be eligible for treatment.

However, not all assessment centres will have the drug on hand.

According to data from the clinical trials, the Paxlovid pill was found to be 89 per cent effective at reducing the risk of hospitalization and death after a full course of treatment (three pills twice daily for five days in a row).

The Ontario government has said that it expects to receive approximately 10,000 courses of treatment in January.

“Given the very limited supply of antivirals, not all patients who meet the clinical eligibility criteria will be guaranteed access to treatment,” the government warns on a new website set up to provide information about antiviral treatments.

Paxlovid was approved by Health Canada on Jan. 17.