Paxlovid is an antiviral medication made by Pfizer that decreases the chances of being hospitalized from Covid-19 by 90%. Merck also has an antiviral drug, Lagevrio, that is also effective at preventing hospitalizations from Covid. Clinical trials showed that Paxlovid was far more effective, so regulators recommend its use over Lagevrio.
In December, both medicines were authorized for use in those 12 and older who test positive for Covid within five days of symptom development and are at high risk for having a severe case. Several things, like obesity and diabetes, increase the likelihood of having a serious infection. Since tens of millions of Americans have one or more of these conditions, they would be eligible to receive these treatments.
However, it’s not reaching many Americans eligible to take it. Part of the problem is that pharmacies haven’t been able to stock the medicine yet. Another issue is that doctors are concerned about depleting the supply, so they aren’t prescribing it. Further still, many individuals don’t even know the medication exists, so they don’t know to ask for it.
As part of a new campaign, the federal government has purchased 20 million doses of Paxlovid and is working with Pfizer to get the pills to those who need them. The government also bought 3.1 million courses of Lagevrio. Part of the new “Test-to-Treat” program involves having over 2,000 locations throughout the country where individuals can get tested for Covid-19. If the test is positive and the provider says the person needs the antiviral pills, they can get them immediately from the clinic.
A new website, COVID.gov, has a locator tool, so it’s easier to find the clinics. The site also has a vaccine/booster locator, a form to order free at-home COVID tests (currently eight maximum per household), CDC community risk level lookup, information about where to get free high-quality masks, and information on COVID symptoms, treatment, testing, and travel. While this information has been available in other locations, such as the CDC’s website, the new site provides it all in one place.
The White House is also planning to launch an education campaign to inform the public about Paxlovid, its effectiveness, and where they can get it. The hope is to get the word out to those that could benefit the most, including people of color or those living in rural areas.