The White House is rapidly making the COVID-19 drug Paxlovid more available, as the Biden administration puts renewed emphasis on treating COVID-19 rather than trying to prevent it.
As cases rise, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha, MD, said the administration is expanding access and use of Paxlovid, a medication made by Pfizer used to treat people 12 and older who have contracted COVID-19 and are at high risk of severe disease. Though approved in December, it has not been widely distributed.
Paxlovid has been found to reduce the risk of COVID-related hospitalization by 90%.
Jha said the administration is increasing the number of sites in the United States that can order doses of the treatment directly from the federal government. Within the next couple of weeks, he said, they will double from 20,000 to 40,000.
There will also be an expansion of test-to-treat sites, where patients can receive treatment right after testing positive, along with a campaign to inform doctors and nurse practitioners of the growing Paxlovid supply.
"We want to lower the severity of the disease that people get if they get infected," Jha said. "Treatments like these, vaccines we have developed, these are the key essential tools we need to get through the rest of this pandemic."
When asked about the status of Vice President Kamala Harris, who has COVID-19, Jha said he is not her doctor and is therefore unsure of her treatment path.
But, he said, "If you take a step back and look at the vice president, she's twice boosted. We have a very, very contagious variant out there. It's going to be hard to ensure that no one gets COVID in America. That's not even a policy goal. The goal of our policy should be obviously to minimize infections whenever possible and to make sure people don't get seriously ill."
Jha said the country has entered a new chapter of the COVID-19 pandemic in which cases are rising but hospitalizations and deaths remain low – a result of both the highly transmissible Omicron BA.2 subvariant and the effective vaccines and treatments now available that prevent severe disease.
"We are, I believe, at an inflection," Jha said at his first White House briefing since assuming his role as COVID coordinator. "We know BA.2, the subvariant of Omicron, has become the dominant variant and cases are rising across the country, but hospitalizations are at the lowest level of the pandemic."
He continued: "We know this virus is tricky. We know that the risk of potential surges, even a potential new variant, remains out there. The good news is we're at a point where we have a lot more capabilities, a lot more tools to protect the American people."
Jha stressed the need for more funding from Congress, which the White House has repeatedly called for to keep vaccines and treatments available to the American people.
Without more funding, he said, the public won't have wide access to new generations of COVID-19 vaccines.
"So far, Congress has not stepped up to provide the funds that are needed for our most urgent needs," Jha said. "I'm looking forward to working with Congress – we all are – to get the funding needs of the American people met on the issue of COVID and COVID treatments."
News briefing, White House, April 26, 2022.
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Cite this: Lindsay Kalter. White House Says COVID Treatment Paxlovid Going Nationwide - Medscape - Apr 27, 2022.