Frequently Asked Questions about Antiviral Drugs

Paxlovid is an oral antiviral drug, manufactured by Pfizer, that is used to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. In clinical trials, Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%. 

Paxlovid is fully authorized for use early in the course of a COVID-19 infection, when illness is mild or moderate, in people ages 12 and older who are at risk for disease progression and severe illness. Treatment must begin within five days of the onset of illness. People who are considered high risk include older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.

Paxlovid is available over the counter by provider or pharmacist prescription. This medication will only be prescribed to those who meet the eligibility criteria and will not experience negative interactions with the medication. 

Paxlovid can also be provided by healthcare providers working within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “Test to Treat” program. Depending on medication availability at these community health sites, providers may be able to provide Paxlovid at no cost to qualifying community members.

Updated November 9, 2023 

“Paxlovid rebound” refers to people who have taken Paxlovid and experience a return of their symptoms several days after they initially recover and test negative for COVID-19. 

Results from a Pfizer study from May 2023, showed that 10% to 16% of users experienced a recurrence of their symptoms after taking Paxlovid. While medical experts continue to monitor this issue, data from Pfizer and the CDC show that the COVID-19 “rebound” illness is mild. The CDC continues to recommend this antiviral as a treatment for people who test positive and are at higher risk for disease progression and severe illness.

If you experience Paxlovid rebound, you should restart the recommended five-day isolation period and remain masked for 10 days to avoid exposing others to the virus. Medical professionals do not recommend extending your treatment or being treated again with Paxlovid. You should contact a healthcare provider if your symptoms persist or worsen.

Updated November 9, 2023 

Vaccination is the best defense against serious COVID-19-related illness and can prevent infection altogether. While antiviral drugs and other treatments are an important advancement, they are not 100% effective in reducing the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, and they are not a substitute for getting vaccinated. 

COVID-19 can cause serious health impacts, especially for those who are not vaccinated and/or live with risk factors for severe disease progression. Alongside vaccination, testing, staying home when you’re sick, and washing your hands, masks are an important tool you can use to protect yourself and others from getting sick. These measures may be particularly important if your community’s COVID-19 Hospital Admission Level is high.

Updated November 9, 2023 

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