WHO’s new COVID guidelines see fewer patients requiring hospitalization

Most patients are unlikely to develop severe disease or die if they get the current variants of COVID-19 as immunity levels have climbed given higher levels of vaccination.

That’s according to the World Health Organization, which updated its COVID-19 guidelines on Friday for the 13th time.

The guidelines highlight that fewer patients will require hospitalization as they are more likely to have non-severe COVID.

“The new ‘moderate risk’ category now includes people previously considered to be high risk including older people and/or those with chronic conditions, disabilities, and comorbidities of chronic disease,” the agency said in a statement.

People who are immunosuppressed remain at higher risk, however, with an estimated hospitalization rate of 6%. But people who are older than 65 years old, those with conditions like obesity, diabetes and/or chronic conditions including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, kidney or liver disease, cancer, people with disabilities and those with comorbidities of chronic disease are at moderate risk, with an estimated hospitalization rate of 3%.

And patients who belong to neither of those groups are at low risk of hospitalization, at an estimated rate of just 0.5%. Most people are now considered low-risk, said the WHO.

The agency continues to recommend the use of Paxlovid for anyone at high or moderate risk of hospitalization. The antiviral developed by Pfizer Inc.

is still the best choice for most eligible patients, given its therapeutic benefits, ease of use and fewer concerns about potential harms.

In cases where Paxlovid is not available, the WHO recommends molnupiravir, an antiviral developed by Merck
or remdesivir, an antiviral developed by Gilead Sciences Inc.

Read now: Pfizer to more than double price of its COVID antiviral once drug moves to commercial market

“For people at low risk of hospitalization, WHO does not recommend any antiviral therapy. Symptoms like fever and pain can continue to be managed with analgesics like paracetamol,” said the agency.

The WHO said it recommends against the use of a new antiviral called VV116 for patients, apart from those who are enrolled in clinical trials.

That oral antiviral is being developed by Junshi Biosciences and Vigonvita in China.

It issued a warning against the use of ivermectin for people with non-severe COVID. The drug used to treat parasites in animals proved highly controversial during the pandemic when many people were persuaded by fraudulent research and online misinformation that it was an effective treatment.

From the archive: ‘You will not believe what I’ve just found.’ Inside the ivermectin saga: a hacked password, mysterious websites and faulty data.

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