Are we missing the strategy that will end the COVID-19 pandemic?
Are we missing the strategy that will end the COVID-19 pandemic?

Are we missing the strategy that will end the COVID-19 pandemic?


COVID

Two doctors argue to improve Biden’s Test-to-Treat program.

Boxes of Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid antiviral drug arranged in a warehouse in Shoham, Israel, January 18, 2022. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Kobi Wolf. Kobi Wolf

As the pandemic drags on with a new variant and vaccinations continue to plateau, many Americans are wondering what at this point could finally bring an end to the virus that has changed our lives over the past two years.

Two epidemiologists entered TIME magazine this week to demonstrate that the Biden administration lacks the key strategy that could finally eradicate COVID-19.

Dr. Steven Phillips and Dr. Michael Mina wrote that the biggest untapped weapons in our arsenal are the new, highly effective oral antiviral drugs.

If the United States were to implement them with the same force and scope that we vaccinated, the doctors wrote, they believe the country will see at least a 50% sustained decline in both national mortality and hospitalizations.

Right now, they wrote, too few people know about these life-saving medications or do not have access to them.

Although President Joe Biden launched a “Test to Treat” initiative through his State of the Union address that makes free treatment available to those eligible who can receive a diagnosis from a physician on a “one-stop” approved Test-to -Treat facility, doctors wrote that less than 10% of pharmacies have providers and clinics to evaluate and prescribe treatment in one place.

This means, they wrote, that while 90% of Americans live within 5 miles of a pharmacy, more than half of the available range of these new oral antiviral drugs is on the shelves because of how difficult it is to access a test-to-treatment facility.

Doctors wrote that there are many barriers to creating more test-to-treat sites and opportunities, but the government has overcome comparable barriers in the rollout of national vaccine and home testing initiatives, and that the need to make antiviral drugs more available to vulnerable Americans is urgent.

Physicians drew up a six-step plan they recommend to strengthen the Test-to-Treat initiative.

  1. Set a clear goal.
    The goal of a national Test-to-Treat program should be to get antiviral drugs to every qualified COVID-19 positive person within three days of getting symptoms, doctors wrote.
  2. Expand the eligibility of the program.
    Right now, those who are eligible for Test-to-Treat are people who are over 65, immunocompromised, or who have specific underlying conditions. As the stockpile of antiviral drugs increases, doctors said, opening up access to more people will help reduce hospitalizations and transmissions.
  3. Create a new home application.
    Using home tests, virtual doctor visits, and pharmacy dispensing, a Test-to-Treat home program could be created.
  4. Make sure antiviral drugs are prescribed safely.
    These drugs interact with other drugs, so thorough patient safety assessments are necessary.
  5. Make it a federal program.
    The needs for a program like this require the type of public-private partnership used for Operation Warp Speed, the doctors wrote.
  6. The monetary cost is worth it.
    Doctors estimate that the program will cost $ 10 billion, but that it will be offset by the amount of money saved on serious COVID-19 treatments.


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