A tablet form of a COVID-19 medication called Paxlovid is now freely available for New Zealanders who recently tested positive for COVID-19 who meet the access criteria. The access criteria have been set by Pharmac, and mental health and addiction issues are recognised as underlying health conditions which may mean people experience worse COVID-19 symptoms.

What you need to know

  • New Zealanders who have COVID-19 and who might get very sick can now be prescribed an antiviral medication.
  • The medication is best taken within 5 days of getting COVID symptoms, so acting fast is important.
  • The medication can be prescribed by a person’s GP. The GP will check if the person meets the eligibility criteria.
  • Mental health and addiction issues are recognised as health conditions that are part of the access criteria.
If you or someone you support with mental health or addiction issues tests positive for COVID-19, talk to your GP straight away about whether antiviral medication is an option.

Important information

It is important that tāngata whaiora who meet the access criteria contact their GP within 5 days of getting COVID-19 symptoms. This is because the medication is most effective when taken within 5 days of symptoms. So ringing the GP or Healthline straight after a positive COVID-19 test is crucial, regardless of severity of symptoms.

Tāngata whaiora, whānau, or support workers can make the call, depending on tāngata whaiora preferences, wellbeing, and the level of support needed.

GPs will check eligibility and then can prescribe. The medication can be picked up from designated pharmacies. In some instances, pharmacies may be able to send the medication directly to the person if no one is available to pick it up. The GP will also check for any possible interactions with other medications a person is taking. This is particularly important if someone is taking clozapine or diazepam, and the GP will be able to advise.