“This is a game changer.” Local doctors comment on new COVID-19 treatment pill

“It’s as contagious as measles, which is the most contagious viral illness we have,” said Kamitsuka.
Published: Dec. 22, 2021 at 10:07 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - The FDA authorized the first COVID-19 treatment pill Wednesday amid the rapid spread of the Omicron variant and rising case numbers nationwide.

[Pfizer pill becomes 1st US-authorized home COVID treatment]

Dr. Paul Kamitsuka, an infectious disease consultant with Wilmington Health, says the availability of an at-home COVID treatment is a major development given the rapid spread of the virus.

“This is a game changer,” Kamitsuka said. “One of the problems with dealing with COVID is we’ve had no good therapy to treat COVID and that’s why we’ve emphasized so strongly the importance of vaccinations.”

Kamitsuka says the need to stay protected from the virus is urgent, and that anyone who is not wearing masks or distancing themselves from others in social settings is “likely” to become infected with the Omicron variant.

Still, Kamitsuka says the best way to prevent yourself from getting seriously ill is to get vaccinated, including a booster shot.

“It’s clear that if you got vaccinated a number of months ago, you really do need a booster to have protection,” Kamitsuka said. “You may still get infected, but the likelihood you will get real sick or die from COVID with the Omicron strain is much reduced.”

Last month, Kamitsuka predicted that COVID case numbers would increase around the holiday season. Now, he offers advice for those planning to get together with friends and family members.

“If I were having a family gathering indoors in my house, I would want to make sure the people coming over we’re vaccinated and preferably boosted as well,” said Kamitsuka. “And in addition, I would make sure that everybody got tested on the day of the gathering.”

Kamitsuka says the keys to finally kicking the pandemic to the curb are getting more people vaccinated, making tests more widely available, and having an available, at-home treatment like Pfizer’s new pill, Paxlovid.

“Only by using all three of those can we get our arms around this so that COVID becomes something more akin to the flu.”

According to Kamitsuka, the time to act is now because the Omicron variant is spreading as fast as the most contagious diseases in the country.

“It’s as contagious as measles, which is the most contagious viral illness we have,” said Kamitsuka. “If I have measles and leave the room I’m in right now, the room air is still contagious for two hours after I leave the room.”

Pfizer says it plans to make 250,000 treatment courses of Paxlovid available to patients in the United States by the end of January.

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