Doctors worry lack of supply is making COVID-19 pills hard to come by for those who need them

Pfizer COVID-19 Pill
Posted at 6:46 AM, Mar 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-17 07:59:38-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill is supposed to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death if taken within the first few days of the onset of infection.

“The good news on that particular pill is it is available and the pill is Paxlovid, it’s a COVID treatment pill,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, Association Professor for USF College of Public Health.

The treatment is now heading into phase two and three clinical trials.

Currently, it’s authorized for people who are 12 and older and high risk.

“So in order to qualify at all, you would have to be symptomatic, have a positive COVID test, and be at high risk for severe disease, hospitalization, and death,” said Roberts.

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“We think about people who are immunocompromised, those who have comorbidities, those are who this drug actually targets,” said Roberts.

The FDA also authorized Merck’s COVID-19 pill for high-risk patients 18 and older.

However, Pfizer’s new clinical trial is looking to make the medication available to kids as young as six, which doctors say is important because treatments for kids are very limited.

“Hopefully we’re gonna have approval for more individuals and we would see less of deaths across all age groups,” said Roberts.

While this pill is a good tool to have in the fight against COVID-19, health officials are concerned about one thing.

“The bad news, it’s available in very limited supply. And so I understand and I’ve seen several physicians report today that they’re having a hard time getting it and that some patients who need to get it are having a really hard time actually finding it,” said Roberts.

The Biden Administration recently launched its "Test to Treat" initiative to help people get access to the pills.

It allows people to get tested at certain pharmacy-based clinics and if they test positive and qualify, then they receive the antiviral pills at no cost.

It's supposed to speed up the process of getting these drugs to high-risk patients.

Health officials want to warn people, this isn’t an excuse to let their guards down. Especially because these pills are not readily available to everyone yet and the virus can leave lasting impacts.

“Obviously what we don’t want people to do is think ‘I can just forget the vaccine, this pill is available’ definitely not. Get those vaccines,” said Roberts.