The White House said Thursday it would push to make the anti-COVID medicine Paxlovid much more accessible nationwide as caseloads and hospitalizations continue to rise.
Public health officials plan to offer the highly effective anti-viral drug to patients at testing sites so they can begin treatment immediately after testing positive for COVID.
“We want to make Paxlovid widely available across the entire country, so that if you do end up getting a breakthrough infection, you’re still protected against serious illness,” said White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha.
The nation’s first federally funded so-called test-to-treat site was set to open in Rhode Island, with others to follow in New York City and Massachusetts, all of which are grappling with a serious surge in infections.
Confirmed infections in the U.S. have quadrupled since late March, from about 25,000 a day to more than 105,000 daily now. The true number of infections is probably more than 200,000, since most positive tests from at-home tests are not reported to authorities.
But deaths, which have tended to lag infections by three to four weeks over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, have declined steadily and are now plateaued at fewer than 300 per day.
It’s the first time in the course of the pandemic that death rates have not followed caseloads higher.
He credited vaccines but also a more than four-fold increase in prescriptions over the last six weeks for Paxlovid, which gives a 90% decline in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease.
“We are now at a point where I believe fundamentally most COVID deaths are preventable, that the deaths that are happening out there are mostly unnecessary, and there are a lot of tools we have now to make sure people do not die of this disease,” Jha said.
The U.S. has ordered 20 million courses of Paxlovid from the drugmaker Pfizer, and the country risks running out this winter if the drug continues to be used widely.
The White House has been pressing Congress for additional funds for months to support purchasing more Paxlovid and other treatments, as well as additional vaccine booster shots. But Republicans are resisting spending more money battling the pandemic.
With News Wire Services