Alabama will be able to distribute a limited number of doses of Pfizer’s oral COVID-19 treatment drug as virus hospitalizations and case numbers are growing in the state. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted emergency use authorization on Wednesday to the pill, named Paxlovid, and described it as a « major step forward in the fight against this global pandemic. »
« This authorization provides a new tool to combat COVID-19 at a crucial time in the pandemic as new variants emerge and promises to make antiviral treatment more accessible to patients who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, » said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, the director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.
Alabama health officials said the state would initially be able to supply 780 courses of the drug via pharmacies. Some other states will also be allotted a limited supply of the pills to hand out before production and distribution capabilities ramp up.
The FDA noted in its Wednesday announcement that the Pfizer pill is not meant « for the pre-exposure or post-exposure prevention of COVID-19 or for initiation of treatment in those requiring hospitalization due to severe or critical COVID-19. »
Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris also said that the pills are not meant to replace vaccinations, « which remain the best way for most people to protect themselves against severe illness and death due to COVID-19. »
« I continue to urge all Alabamians to be vaccinated and receive a booster dose when eligible, » Harris said.
Paxlovid, which will be available by prescription by the first week of January, was authorized for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 symptoms in adults and children.
Less than half of Alabama’s population is fully vaccinated, and relatively few people are following health recommendations to wear masks in public places and maintain a safe distance from others. In Hoover, Alabama, earlier this week, unmasked holiday shoppers far outnumbered people with covered faces at the state’s largest shopping mall, the Riverchase Galleria.
More than 16,380 people have died of COVID-19 in the state, giving Alabama the nation’s second-highest death rate from the illness caused by the coronavirus, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University.
Over the last two weeks, the rolling average number of daily new cases has increased by 348, or 64.1%, but the state ranks last in the nation for new cases per capita, according to Johns Hopkins.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have jumped more than 70 percent statewide in a month to more than 430 on Wednesday, but that is still far below levels from early fall when officials said the state’s health care system was in danger of being overwhelmed by the illness.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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