Quick testing is key to getting best treatment
If you test positive for COVID-19 and you’re at high risk of getting seriously ill, medicines can help shrink your chances of ending up in the hospital – or even dying.
Get tested as soon as you feel sick. These medicines work best in the first few days that you have symptoms. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath and others.
The treatments mentioned in this post are for people with a high risk of getting seriously ill if they get COVID-19, including:
- People 50 years and older; the older you are, the more likely you’ll feel serious effects of this illness.
- People who aren’t vaccinated for COVID-19.
- People with certain medical conditions, including a weakened immune system.
Paxlovid is a brand name for a combination of two generic antiviral medicines, nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. They help stop the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 from multiplying in the body. That makes it easier for the immune system to fight the virus.
Paxlovid is for adults, and children at least 12 years old. It’s taken by mouth, at home.
Someone must start taking Paxlovid within just 5 days of feeling symptoms. This is a prescription drug. It’s not available at all pharmacies. Any licensed health care provider can prescribe it, but ask your clinician what pharmacy near you carries this drug.
You also can check a list of pharmacies at this COVID-19 Therapeutics Locator. You should still call the pharmacy to double check that it has Paxlovid before you go to fill your prescription.
Some people who finish their five days on Paxlovid may feel sick and test again positive for COVID-19. Researchers found that this “rebound” could also happen with patients who weren’t treated with this medication. If this happens, you should isolate from others because you could again spread the virus.
This Centers for Disease Control and Prevention page explains how to understand your chances of becoming seriously ill with COVID if you catch it.
In this video, two infectious disease experts – Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s chief epidemiologist, Tom Talbot, M.D., and Ben Ereshefsky, an infectious disease pharmacist – explain how Paxlovid works and what to know about taking it.
Monoclonal antibodies are another option
Some people can’t take Paxlovid because it can interfere with other prescriptions. Your health care provider should talk with you about what medications you take and whether you should take Paxlovid or use a different treatment for COVID-19.
Monoclonal antibodies are another treatment option. This therapy is based on the natural antibodies the immune system creates when infected with a virus or other particle that causes illness. When the immune system detects a germ that can cause illness, it creates antibodies – special proteins – that attack the germ.
Monoclonal antibody treatment is for patients at least 12 years old with mild to moderate symptoms, and who are at high risk of getting very sick or dying from COVID-19. This treatment is only given by infusion (with an IV), with an appointment, done at a specialized clinic. Monoclonal antibodies must be given within 7 days of when you first feel COVID-19 symptoms.
If you think you may be eligible for this treatment, ask your health care provider about getting a referral to receive it.
For people who can’t take Paxlovid or get monoclonal antibody infusions, another option is Lagevrio (generic: molnupiravir). This is another antiviral medication, like Paxlovid. It’s not for children, only for people age 18 and older. It’s taken by mouth at home, and needs to be taken within 5 days of when you first feel symptoms. Only certain pharmacies carry it. Check the COVID-19 Therapeutics Locator to see where you can get your prescription.
In this video, Talbot and Vanderbilt University Medical Center chief medical officer, Paul Sternberg, M.D., talk about COVID-19 treatments now available:
Where to get help
If you get COVID-19, there are ways of treating the illness without a hospital stay. If you or a family member 12 years or older tests positive for the virus and you are at high risk for serious illness, please see your doctor or go to one of our Vanderbilt Health Clinic at Walgreens locations or a Vanderbilt Health Walk-In Clinic for testing and to talk about your treatment options.