Frequently Asked Questions about Antiviral drugs

Paxlovid is an oral antiviral drug used to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19. Paxlovid is authorized for use early in the course of a COVID infection—when illness is mild or moderate—in people aged 12 and older who are at high risk for severe COVID-19. Treatment must begin with 5 days of onset of illness. In clinical trials, Paxlovid reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89%. People who are considered high risk include older adults and those with underlying medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, or heart disease.

Currently, Paxlovid is not available over the counter, but it is available at no cost when prescribed by a healthcare provider or pharmacist.

Updated July 22, 2022

A small proportion of people who have taken Paxlovid have experienced a return of their symptoms several days after they initially recover and test negative for COVID-19. In clinical trials, one to two percent of participants 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 people who experience COVID-19 rebounds have had mild illness. The CDC continues to recommend the antiviral as a treatment for people who test positive and are at high risk for severe COVID-19.

If you experience COVID-19 rebound, you should restart the recommended 5-day isolation period. Currently, there is no evidence that you need to extend your treatment or be treated again with Paxlovid. You should contact a healthcare provider if your symptoms persist or worsen.

Added July 22, 2022

Vaccination is the best line of defense against COVID-19 and can prevent infection altogether. While antiviral drugs and other treatments are an important advancement, they are not 100% effective in reducing risk of hospitalization or death from COVID-19, and they are no substitute for getting vaccinated. Getting COVID-19 still causes serious health impacts for some people, especially those who are not vaccinated. Preventing serious infection by getting vaccinated (and boosted, if you’re eligible) and taking other precautions, like masking and distancing — particularly if your COVID-19 Community Level is high — are the best ways to protect your health. 

Updated March 3, 2022