The federal government will send out newly-authorized COVID-19 antiviral pills to New York this month, according to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who on Sunday urged Washington to give the Empire State first dibs on the pharmaceuticals.
“New York is the greatest need, the feds should put us at the top of the list,” Schumer told reporters during a press conference in Manhattan on Jan. 2. “This month for sure, we just need more and more and more.”
Federal health officials are still deciding how to divvy up the pair of pills approved for use among states, according to the Senate Majority Leader.
“We are number one in terms of COVID cases, we are number one in terms of density, we are number one in terms of per capita [infections], and so we deserve to get as many of these antivirals as quickly as possible and as many as possible,” he said.
The Food and Drug Administration issued emergency authorizations for Paxlovid manufactured by Pfizer on Dec. 22 and the less effective molnupiravir by Merck the following day.
Paxlovid is available for people aged 12 or older and reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from the coronavirus by 88%, while molnupiravir cuts the risk by 30%, but is limited to those 18 or older who can’t get other FDA-authorized treatments.
Supplies for both are severely limited though, and the President Joe Biden administration has so far ordered 10 million courses of Paxlovid and 3.1 million of molnupiravir.
The pills are for people with mild to moderate cases of the disease who are at high risk of severe illness, including those with compromised immune systems or who are 65-years-old and older.
The pills have to be taken within five days of showing symptoms and can help keep more people out of the hospital, but they are no replacement for getting vaccinated, noted one doctor who joined Schumer’s presser.
“We still need to get vaccinated, these anti-virals are not a replacement for the vaccines, vaccines are necessary,” said Mike Varshavski, a family medicine physician with Overlook Medical Center in New Jersey and YouTuber. “Unlike vaccines which prevent the fire, these medications essentially put the fire out once it’s already started.”
The pills will require a doctor’s prescription and will be distributed through pharmacies.