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An Alternative for the Vaccine Hesitant: The Covid-19 Treatment Pill

Given that the best way to protect against Covid-19 is a vaccine, and that there has always been a level of vaccine resistance—even more so with the Covid-19 vaccines—an effective, easy-to-use Covid-19 treatment was always going to be a key part of getting back to normal. Well, it appears that treatment is finally here, in pill form.
Pfizer has just released data indicating its experimental antiviral treatment for Covid-19, Paxlovid—which combines a new antiviral drug with an older one—reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent compared to placebo when given to high-risk adults shortly after symptoms appear.
That’s a game changer! Even more so because the primary Covid-19 antiviral treatment, remdesivir, has to be taken intravenously, making it much more difficult to administer.
And an effective antiviral pill couldn’t come soon enough now that the United States is approaching 800,000 deaths, with seniors (age 65 and up) representing about 75 percent of those deaths. [See the Statista gragh.]

Assuming (1) the initial findings hold up; (2) that side effects are minimal or manageable; (3) the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the treatment; and (4) the pill becomes widely available, we could soon have more options, especially for those who are not vaccinated.
In that case, Covid-19 may eventually become more like the seasonal flu, which is also a contagious respiratory illness. We have annual flu vaccines, with an uptake that has recently peaked at about 50 percent of the adult population. And we have several antiviral drugs (e.g., Tamiflu) for those who recognize flu symptoms early and are able to obtain a prescription from their doctor.
But the most remarkable thing about emerging Covid-19 treatments—as well as the vaccines—is how quickly drug companies were able to develop them.
It typically takes some 10 to 12 years for a new drug to go from inception to ingestion. The first U.S. Covid-19 cases emerged less than two years ago.  And yet the vaccines were available and distributed in less than a year. And now a Covid-19 treatment is becoming available in less than two years.
Pfizer isn’t the only drug company releasing a Covid-19 treatment. Merck’s new antiviral pill, molnupiravir, was recommended by the FDA’s advisors, though it appears it may be less effective that Pfizer’s.
Even so, these treatments likely represent a new wave of easy-to-take pills that could dramatically reduce Covid-19 hospitalizations and death, making the virus a nuisance more than a threat.