The Department of Health and Human Services maintains a list of the locations where the Pfizer pill can be obtained. Currently, what’s on offer is so limited that state health officials recommend using it only on those at greatest risk.
The National Institutes of Health, which formulate treatment guidelines for physicians, recommended last month that when supplies are limited, priority should be given to antiviral pills and antibody treatments for the highest risk unvaccinated patients, as well as those with compromised immune systems, with any vaccination status.
Many state officials have already followed these guidelines, saying they will carefully distribute the pills they are given to those most in need. Arizona, for example, advised giving paxlovid only to people over 70 who also have serious health problems such as terminal heart disease, or to younger people with compromised immune systems.
In West Virginia, health officials have dispatched around 20 treatment courses to each of the 14 locations and reserved around 20 more in case of an outbreak, said Dr. Clay Marsh, the state’s Covid-19 tsar.
And in Louisiana, health officials met with hospital managers from across the state last week who came up with a plan that the state passed this week and distributed its most recent allotment of 342 paxlovid courses to outpatient hospital pharmacies.
Dr. Joseph Kanter, Louisiana’s chief health officer, said the idea was to relieve crowded emergency rooms and intensive care units so that doctors in situations like this can discharge high-risk patients after the pill is prescribed.
This will shorten the time between identifying a patient as a candidate for paxlovid and starting taking it, said Dr. Canter.
“You have to put it in the hands of vendors and pharmacists and give it the best possible guidance,” he said, “then take a step back and hope it reaches the people who need it most.”