On the heels of a surge in COVID-19 numbers due to the Omicron variant, the long-anticipated oral antiviral therapeutic has been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. Paxlovid is a pill that Americans can take at home to stave off the worst effects of the Coronavirus.
Americans have waited for months for the FDA to authorize this medication; its authorization comes as the White House and health officials warn that the Omicron strain – now the dominant COVID-19 strain – may cause a surge in hospitalizations in the near future. Yesterday, President Joe Biden addressed the country regarding its efforts to combat the latest variant of the Coronavirus.
Paxlovid is a faster and cheaper way to treat the Coronavirus, particularly in the early stages of the infection. Scientists have said the pill will provide a 90 percent chance of reducing hospitalizations and the most detrimental effects of COVID-19. Fox News called the pill a “game changer,” particularly in mild cases of the COVID-19. Merck is also developing a pill for the same purpose; their product is expected to get FDA authorization soon.
Manufacturers warn that production of the pill may be limited for a short period of time.
Any other therapeutics up until this time were an IV infusion or an injection.
Patients need to take this pill within five to ten days of infection. It is approved for anyone twelve years or older with a chronic medical condition. At this time, those medical conditions have not been publicly listed. However, Dr. Nicole Saffier told Fox News that it may be a month before this pill is widely used. She also warned that the pill may not be a great deal of help with the current surge. However, once this pill gets into circulation, we may be able to see COVID-19 become an endemic rather than a pandemic.
The U.S. Army is working on a vaccine that will combat multiple variants of the COVID-19 virus. However, this vaccine is still in the works with no set date for a release.
Dr. Gregory Poland of the Mayo Clinic touted the Pfizer pill’s effective rate as well as its low rate of side effects. “The efficacy is high, the side effects are low and it’s oral. It checks all the boxes.”
The FDA approved the Pfizer pill for people aged 12 years and older with a high risk of hospitalization due to contracting the COVID-19 virus. This will likely include those with obesity or heart disease. In order for a twelve year old child to be eligible for the pill, the patient must weigh at least 88 pounds.
Scientists at both Pfizer and Merck expect the pill to be effective against Omicron because the pill doesn’t target the spike protein where most of the variant’s mutations reside. The U.S. Federal health agencies are expected to ship initial orders for the pill to the hardest hit areas of the country first. Pfizer also said that it typically takes nine months to manufacture medication of this sort. They aim to cut this time in half in 2022.
Currently, the United States is reporting more than 140,000 new COVID infections daily, but federal officials caution that the Omicron variant could send these numbers surging in the upcoming weeks.