France to start using Pfizer's COVID-19 drug, first in EU

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People wearing masks stroll in Saint-Jean-de-Luz southwestern France, Wednesday, Fev.2, 2022. England, France, Ireland, the Netherlands and several Nordic countries have taken steps to end or loosen their restrictions. Step by step, many countries are easing their COVID-19 restrictions amid hopes the omicron wave may have passed its peak. (AP Photo/Bob Edme)

PARIS – France says it will start administering Pfizer’s coronavirus antiviral drug this week, the first pill for treating COVID-19 approved in the 27-nation EU.

The country is still reporting among the world's highest per-capita daily infections, but virus-related critical care hospitalizations are easing, and the French government on Wednesday started lifting restrictions related to the surge in omicron cases.

Masks are now no longer required outdoors in France, large crowds are again allowed in concerts and sports venues and a government order to work from home part-time has been lifted.

Meanwhile, France has received its first 10,000 doses of the Pfizer drug Paxlovid and they will be available in pharmacies starting Friday, the Health Ministry said Wednesday. It says it's the first European Union country to start providing the treatment since it won regulatory approval last week.

It will be given to adults with symptoms who don’t require oxygen and who are at higher risk of severe disease, according to European Medicines Agency guidelines. Supplies of the drug remain limited worldwide.

The EMA last week recommended that Paxlovid be authorized for use, saying it could help people infected with COVID-19 avoid more serious disease and being hospitalized. The drug was cleared by regulators in the U.S. and Britain in December.

An antiviral pill from Merck also is expected to soon be authorized. Both drugs are expected to be effective against omicron because they do not target the spike protein where most of the variant’s worrisome mutations reside.


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