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Life-saving oral antivirals can help Mississippians avoid most severe coronavirus symptoms
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A customer walks into a CVS Pharmacy store, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021, in Woburn, Mass. The Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday, July 6, 2022, that pharmacies could now prescribe Pfizer's Paxlovid pill directly to COVID-19 patients.
AP Photo/Charles Krupa

A life-saving antiviral medication for treating coronavirus is becoming more widely available at pharmacies across Mississippi.

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Coronavirus cases are surging across Mississippi, and health officials say anyone 12 years and older should seek antiviral or monoclonal treatments to protect against the most severe symptoms. Last week, the FDA gave emergency use authorization for the oral anti-viral PAXLOVID to be distributed in pharmacies. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers says vaccines and therapeutics such as PAXLOVID have helped keep the current death rate low.

Dr. Byers says “It has been shown to reduce the development of severe complications and hospitalizations by 88-90% if taken early in the course of that illness, within those first five days. And it’s a great medication to utilize especially for people who are high risk.”

PAXLOVID has been heavily utilized in the clinical setting for months. Now that it is being made available through pharmacies, experts say there needs to be extra levels of caution when prescribing it. Olivia Strain, Vice President of the Mississippi Pharmacists Association, says the Department of Health has provided guidelines to determine who can and can’t qualify.

“And it goes through the medical history, weather they must answer yes or no for these questions to be eligible,” says Strain. “And it lists a whole lot of medications to say ‘if they’re on this, they do not need to take PAXLOVID. They need to talk to their provider.’”

Coronavirus vaccines remain the most effective way of preventing severe illness, and experts say Mississippians who have already tested positive should consult their doctor regarding monoclonal antibodies or oral antivirals.