People Most At-Risk From Covid Can Access A New Antiviral Treatment

As the government prepares to drop all restrictions, here's what we know about antiviral pills.
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People who have a high risk of becoming ill from Covid can now take a new antiviral treatment available from the NHS.

Paxlovid, which is a pill owned by Pfizer, has been added to the list of antivirals already available. The drug reduced the risk of hospital admission or death by 88% in clinical trials, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

The announcement comes as clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people have told HuffPost UK they fear for their lives as the end of all Covid restrictions approaches. While some on social media have welcomed the rollout of the new drug, others have urged the government to focus on public health measures which would stop the spread of Covid-19 in the first place.

Antiviral treatments are for people who are have not been admitted to the hospital. They’re designed to limit the risk of becoming seriously ill and allow people to deal with their Covid-19 symptoms. Here’s what you need to know about them:

What are the antiviral treatments?

The treatments available are:

Nirmatrelvir, ritonavir, remdesivir and molnupiravir are all antiviral medicines.

Sotrovimab on the other hand is a biological medicine which is also known as a neutralising monoclonal antibody.

Who is eligible?

You’re eligible for the treatments if:

  • you’re aged 12 or over
  • you’re at highest risk of getting seriously ill from Covid-19
  • you have symptoms of Covid-19
  • you have tested positive for Covid-19

According to the NHS, those who are at high risk are people with:

  • Down’s syndrome
  • sickle cell disease
  • HIV or AIDS
  • chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage 4 or 5
  • certain types of cancer
  • had certain types of chemotherapy in the last 12 months
  • had radiotherapy in the last 6 months
  • had an organ transplant
  • a severe liver condition (such as cirrhosis)
  • a rare condition affecting the brain or nerves (multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Huntington’s disease or myasthenia gravis)
  • certain autoimmune or inflammatory conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease)
  • a condition or treatment that makes you more likely to get infections.

How do these treatments work?

Antiviral treatments work by stopping the virus from reproducing in your body once you’ve been infected. Vaccines boost immunity to the virus, but are not 100% fail-safe. These treatments limit how the virus can spread in your body after infection.

If taken early, they can stop serious disease from developing. They limit your chance of being taken to the hospital or getting seriously ill.

The pills will help with reinfections, especially for those who are vulnerable.

How do you access these treatments?

If you’re eligible for a treatment you first need to take a Covid test. If you test positive you must report this on the GOV.UK website so they can contact you about treatment,

Once you test positive, the treatment should be taken as soon as possible. In order for the treatments to be effective they have to be taken quickly after your symptoms appear.

The NHS should be in contact with you in 24 hours to asses whether the treatment is right for you. The treatments are free and the NHS will never ask for your card details or ask to pay for treatment.