People most at risk of Covid can access new antiviral treatment

People who are at high risk of getting sick 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 hospitalization or death by 88% in clinical trials, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

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

Antiviral treatments are for people who have not been admitted to hospital. They are designed to limit the risk of becoming seriously ill and allow people to cope with their symptoms of Covid-19. 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 drugs.

Sotrovimab, on the other hand, is a biologic drug also known as a neutralizing monoclonal antibody.

Who is eligible?

You are eligible for treatment if:

  • you are 12 or older
  • you are most at risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19
  • you have symptoms of Covid-19
  • you have tested positive for Covid-19

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

  • Down 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 past 12 months
  • had radiation therapy in the past 6 months
  • had an organ transplant
  • severe liver disease (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 diseases (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 replicating in your body once you’ve been infected. Vaccines boost immunity against the virus, but are not 100% safe. These treatments limit how the virus can spread in your body after infection.

If caught early, they can prevent the development of serious illnesses. They limit your chances of being taken to hospital or becoming seriously ill.

The pills will help with reinfections, especially for vulnerable people.

How do I access these treatments?

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

Once the test is positive, treatment should be taken as soon as possible. For treatments to be effective, they must be taken soon after symptoms appear.

The NHS should contact you within 24 hours to assess whether the treatment is right for you. Treatments are free and the NHS will never ask you for your card details or ask to pay for the treatment.

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