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White House Focuses Efforts on Increasing Supply of Paxlovid

April 27, 2022 by Alexa Hornbeck

WASHINGTON — At a White House briefing Tuesday, Dr. Ashish Jha, the new White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, detailed how the U.S. plans to ramp up supplies of Paxlovid, an oral antiviral treatment which is used to prevent severe illness from COVID-19 infection.  

“We are at an inflection point. On one hand, we know BA.2, the subvariant of omicron has become dominant. Cases are rising across the country, but hospitalizations are at their lowest level of the pandemic. Deaths are continuing to follow, we’re down to about 300 deaths a day,” said Jha.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an emergency use authorization for Paxlovid to treat mild to moderate COVID-19. Jha said the treatment reduces hospitalizations by more than 90%. 

“Over the last few months, the administration has worked very hard with Pfizer to increase the supply of Paxlovid … more doses for the American people,” said Jha.

According to Jha, until the recent change, the way pharmacies received Paxlovid was either at a Test to Treat site, or from the home state of the individual in need of the treatment. 

The White House is now opening up a federal pharmacy channel, which Jha said means that pharmacies will be able to order directly from the federal government. 

“Currently, there are about 20,000 sites in the United States that carry Paxlovid, and we expect with this change that we will very quickly get to 30,000,” said Jha.

“Within the next couple weeks, I expect us to get to about 40,000 sites,” continued Jha. 

Jha said the administration will expand the number of Test to Treat sites around the country to include a treatment component so if individuals test positive and have a medical determination from a provider they can receive Paxlovid.

“In the beginning, when Paxlovid first became available the word on the street was that these things are not widely available, and you should restrict this to the highest risk patients. Too many physicians still have that mindset,” said Jha. 

“We now have plenty available and anyone who is eligible, or anyone who is high risk, should be getting Paxlovid as long as they meet the clinical criteria,” continued Jha.

The FDA has laid out a set of criteria for when an individual should consider taking the treatment, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a list to understand who is at high risk of developing complications from COVID-19. 

According to Jha, the FDA is also working with Moderna and Pfizer to see what the next generations of vaccines might look like, and tracking treatments which might have fewer side effects and be more effective. 

“It’s possible we may get a whole new generation of vaccines in the fall or winter that may be more effective and more durable. None of those are going to be available to the American people if we don’t get more funding,” said Jha.

What started as nearly $23 billion in COVID relief funds has entirely dropped from spending bills attempted by the administration. 

“Because we don’t have the funding it’s a bit of a patch work as to what is happening. There are obviously places that still serve uninsured people … community health centers … people are still going to CVS and other places that still are offering those services, but that’s not a sustainable solution,” said Jha.

Congress has just returned from a two-week recess, and Jha said he looks forward to working with Congress to get the funding needed for COVID relief met.

“People are still getting care, but over time if Congress continues to not fund these urgent priorities it’s going to be harder and harder for people to access care,” said Jha.

 Alexa can be reached at alexa@thewellnews.com 

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