Post: Coronavirus Update: As

COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising as part of what some are referring to as an “invisible wave,” and that means more attention is being paid to Paxlovid, Pfizer Inc.’s

antiviral treatment that can prevent some people from getting severely ill. 

The pill has become an increasingly important tool in the nation’s defense against COVID-19 as mask mandates have lifted and people have returned to their non-distanced lives.

With that elevated status has come challenges relating to supply and access. 

“In the past week, I have had multiple state departments of public health that are coming to us saying access to the prescribing event is the problem,” Caroline Savello, chief commercial officer for Color, which is supporting a program in Massachusetts that uses telehealth to determine someone’s eligibility for Paxlovid, told Stat this week.

It’s unclear how often Paxlovid is being used or how much supply is available within specific communities, according to Kaiser Health News. And it’s not always easy to find a prescription; one individual told NPR that it took “an unusual amount of knowledge, connections, and assertiveness” to get the medication. 

Health care providers are also grappling with what to do if a patient who is taking Paxlovid reports a relapse in symptoms, a new concern that has bubbled up in recent weeks.

“This is something public health agencies will have to wrap their heads around and figure out what to do,” Michael Charness, chief of staff at the VA Boston Healthcare System, told The Wall Street Journal.

Pfizer has said patients experiencing a relapse should take another course of treatment, though U.S. regulators disagree with that assessment.

And as more people use at-home tests, they may not realize that they need to start Paxlovid within five days of symptoms if they test positive, Dr. Michael Mina, a former Harvard University epidemiologist who is now the chief science officer at eMed, which connects at-home tests with telehealth services, told MarketWatch this week.

“People just aren’t acting upon their self-test, and they’re also not reporting so it’s kind of a double whammy,” he said.

Other COVID-19 news to know: 

  • The Biden administration said Thursday it plans to share patents for what is called the stabilized spike protein — a component of several COVID-19 vaccines — with other countries as part of an effort to get more of the world vaccinated. It’s unclear how this will affect companies like BioNTech SE
    Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson
    and Moderna Inc.
    which developed the vaccines currently available in the U.S., according to the Journal. The patent news came out of Thursday’s COVID-19 summit. 

  • The White House is also continuing to make the case for more COVID-19 funding in the U.S. as it prepares for a potential surge of cases in the fall and winter. Part of that funding would be used to pay for next-generation COVID-19 shots that may better protect against the current (and future) strains of the virus. “If we’re willing to be in the back of the line and get our vaccines in the spring, we have plenty of time,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID-19 coordinator, told the Associated Press this week. “But then we’ll have missed the entire fall and winter. That’s not an acceptable outcome, I think, for the American people.”

Here’s what the numbers say:

The daily average of new COVID-19 cases climbed to a three-month high; the seven-day average of new cases was 87,522 on Thursday, the highest number seen since Feb. 21, according to a New York Times Tracker. The state with the biggest increase in new cases from two weeks ago was Mississippi, followed by Missouri. 

The daily average of hospitalizations was 20,070, up 20% from two weeks ago and the highest daily average since March 23. Meanwhile, the daily average of deaths was 321, down 4% from two weeks ago. — Tomi Kilgore

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