The Biden administration said Thursday it is launching the first federally run test-to-treat site in Rhode Island as it puts its stamp on efforts to disperse a promising antiviral drug against COVID-19.
People who go to the clinic in Providence can be tested for the virus and, if positive, talk to a doctor about getting Paxlovid, the groundbreaking pill from Pfizer.
The administration is deploying personnel to testing sites in Minnesota to turn them into test-to-treat sites and additional locations are planned for Illinois and New York. It is also working with Massachusetts and New York City to bolster state- and local-run efforts to get Paxlovid into more hands.
Mr. Biden’s health team says Paxlovid, which can stop the virus from replicating within infected persons, was in limited supply earlier in the year, but there is enough in the pipeline to use it more liberally.
“We have dramatically increased the number of people benefiting from oral antivirals in the last seven weeks, from about 27,000 prescriptions filled each week to more than 182,000 last week — a more than six-fold increase. We have also doubled the number of sites where Paxlovid is available nationally,” a White House fact sheet said.
The U.S. faces a high case count due to fast-moving lineages of omicron, averaging 110,000 reported infections per day.
Hospitalizations haven’t risen as fast and stand around 25,000 — around the same level as last year, when case counts were lower — so officials are hopeful that widespread immunity and treatments are having an effect.
Mr. Biden’s federally run test-to-treat sites are reminiscent of the federal sites he set up for the vaccination campaign. Some critics viewed the sites as duplicative of state-run sites and private clinics.
About 25,000 to 30,000 courses of Paxlovid are being prescribed each day. When administered within five days of symptoms appearing, the drug has been proven to bring about a 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told The Associated Press.
Due to a change in the way Paxlovid is allocated to states, the number of pharmacies where it is available has doubled in the last month to almost 40,000.
“We are now at a point where I believe fundamentally most COVID deaths are preventable, that the deaths that are happening out there are mostly unnecessary, and there are a lot of tools we have now to make sure people do not die of this disease,” Dr. Jha said.
• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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