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The U.S. is taking action to make an antiviral to treat COVID-19 more accessible.
Echoing pledges made earlier this year, the Biden administration announced that the first federally-supported test-to-treat site is opening in Rhode Island on Thursday, providing COVID-positive patients with immediate access to Paxlovid.
Additional sites are slated to open in Illinois and New York.
The White House said that the oral antiviral COVID pill reduces risk of hospitalization or death from the illness by about 90%.
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“Since Paxlovid was first authorized in December 2021, the administration has moved quickly to ensure that these treatments are widely available and that health care providers and patients know about their availability and efficacy. These efforts include a Test-to-Treat initiative to help make it easier for people to quickly access oral antiviral treatments in one convenient location. There are now more than 2,500 Test-to-Treat locations across the country at local pharmacies and community health centers—up from 2,200 a month ago,” the administration said in a statement.
It said that the number of people benefiting from oral antivirals in the last seven weeks has increased by more than six-fold and that the number of sites where Paxlovid is available has doubled nationally, up to nearly 40,000 locations.
40% of the pharmacy sites that have oral antivirals available are located in communities with the highest levels of social vulnerability.
In addition, clinical personnel will be deployed to support state-run sites in Minnesota.
There are now more than 2,500 test-to-treat sites across the country at local pharmacies and community health centers.
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Federal health agencies have issued updated guidance to assist health care providers stay up to date and navigate drug-drug interactions and contraindications.
Confirmed COVID-19 infections in the U.S. have quadrupled since late March.
However, deaths from infections have steadily declined.
White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha credited vaccines and a more than four-fold increase in prescriptions for Paxlovid over the last six weeks.
He told The Associated Press that bout 25,000 to 30,000 courses of Paxlovid are being prescribed each day.
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“Being vaccinated and boosted is a huge part of making sure that those kinds of activities are substantially safer,” he said. “And then, of course, we want to make Paxlovid as widely available across the entire country, so that if you do end up getting a breakthrough infection, you’re still protected against serious illness.”
The U.S. has ordered 20 million courses of Paxlovid from the drugmaker Pfizer. Paxlovid is approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration. Possible side effects include allergic reactions, liver problems and other issues.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.