Why The White House Wants To Raise Awareness Of The Life-Saving COVID-19 Antiviral Treatment

After being authorized in late December 2021, the COVID-19 antiviral treatment pill Paxlovid was shipped to all states across the country (via NPR). Initially in short supply, some states received as few as 120 doses. Now, the Biden administration will be expanding access to the drug across more than 30,000 U.S. locations within the coming week by making it available through doctors as well as pharmacies, reports the Associated Press.

When taken within five days after the emergence of symptoms, Paxlovid hinders the virus' ability to replicate itself (via NBC News). In doing so, the risk of patient hospitalization, severe illness, and death significantly decreases, providing protection rates of up to 89%. Currently, use of the drug has been approved for positive COVID-19 patients 12 years of age and older who are at risk of severe complications.

Despite this recent increase in supply, NBC News reported earlier this month that doses of Paxlovid remain widely unused and under-prescribed by physicians. 

Government officials work to combat a lack of awareness about Paxlovid's availability

Some experts believe Paxlovid's low prescription rate can largely be attributed to a lack of physician awareness around the drug's increased availability. Infectious diseases and critical care physician Ryan Maves elaborates, telling NBC News, "I think part of the challenge is so early on there was such little supply, and getting ahold of it was a real challenge. But the folks caring for patients who are at high risk may not know it is so much easier to get now."

In an effort to keep doctors informed, government officials have boosted outreach efforts (per Associated Press). With enough doses ordered to treat 20 million people across the country, the White House is encouraging healthcare professionals to prescribe the medication to whomever is eligible and may be in need. According to the Associated Press, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha shared with CNN their overall goal, "The bottom line is that we want to make this therapeutic available to all Americans."