On Thursday November 25th, I asked the Minister of Health why her government has been so slow to approve the use of two monoclonal antibodies (MAbs)which have been shown to the very effective in reducing hospital and ICU needs and reducing deaths from COVID-19. These monoclonal antibodies have been approved for use and have been used for the last three months in Ontario, and have been similarly approved for use in British Columbia and Alberta. The use of these monoclonal antibodies have the potential to reduce the need for ICU beds from COVID and to reduce deaths. Their use could potentially have decreased the need for ICU beds sufficiently that we would not have needed to transport patients hundreds of kilometers away from their homes in order to free up hospital space. My question and the Minister's response is below (from Hansard).
for Early COVID Treatment
Approval for Use in Manitoba
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, two monoclonal antibodies, casirivimab and imdevimab–colloquially called mAbs–are remarkably effective in the early treatment of COVID, decreasing the number of people having to go to the ICU or dying by up to 70 per cent. These mAbs are now widely used in BC, Alberta and Ontario, including in Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay, but not in Manitoba, because this Province has not acted with the urgency needed.
Why is the Province hesitating to approve these mAbs when they save lives and decrease ICU use and can enable Manitoba to return to elective surgeries and address the enormous backlog which we have now?
Hon. Audrey Gordon (Minister of Health and Seniors Care): I thank the member for–from River Heights for the question.
Our government continues to seek the advice and listen to the experts at Public Health, as well as the national advisory council on immunization. The best defence we have against COVID‑19 is for individuals to get vaccinated. When new drugs become available, once again, we seek the advice of public health experts.
As you know, Madam Speaker, earlier this year, I also changed regulation to make it easier for us to add new drugs to the formulary, and I look forward to hearing more from Public Health as new drugs come to the market.
In addition to the question above, I commented on two other occasions on the failure of the government to quickly approve the use of the mAbs in Manitoba. These comments are below:
From my Comments on the Throne Speech – Thursday November 25th
The COVID pandemic continues and now is in the middle of the fourth wave. The projections from our chief public health officer, Dr. Brent Roussin, are that it will get worse.
Already, many surgical and diagnostic procedures are being postponed. Postponed is a government euphemism for cancelled, to be rescheduled at some unknown future date. It means the backlog of surgeries and diagnostic tests will grow.
It did not have to be this way. I have, for example, already written repeatedly to the Minister of Health to allow the use of two monoclonal antibodies, mAbs. These two are, specifically, casirivimab, and imdevimab, and their use early in the course of COVID‑19 infection has been shown to reduce deaths and to reduce the number of individuals who need ICU care by up to 70 per cent.
The reduction in the need for ICU care would be sufficient that surgeries would not have needed to be cancelled in the way they were. It's really unfortunate that Manitoba has been so slow to approve the use of mAbs. Currently, these mAbs are being used widely in Ontario, in Alberta and BC. Indeed, it's shocking that these mAbs can be used in Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay, but can't be used in Winnipeg.
Bob Dylan had a song, when will they ever learn. One wonders whether the current government will ever learn.
From my Comments on a resolution calling from a Public Inquiry into the conduct of the Pandemic on Thursday December 2.
In June 2021, Health Canada approved the use of two monoclonal antibodies, colloquially called mAbs, with the specific names casirivimab and imdevimab. These have been shown in rigorous scientific work to be very effective when given early in the course of a COVID infection in a person who is not vaccinated. They reduced the need for hospitalization and for ICU care. The results are very impressive with as much as a 70 per cent reduction in some cases.
I wrote on October 11 and again on October 22nd to the Minister of Health to urge her to approve the use of these mAbs and then asked in QP last week. Ontario, BC and Alberta have already been using them for some time, including in Sioux Lookout in rural Ontario. But in Winnipeg, a hub of expertise in infectious diseases, we still can't use them. Ouch. I dread to consider how many people in Manitoba have died when they could have been saved if these agents had been approved here much more quickly, as they were in Ontario.
Just because some in Manitoba have not got vaccinated doesn't mean they shouldn't be helped. These people may be misinformed but they are not bad people. They should be helped. They should not die when we can prevent it