New York City has struggled to get COVID-19 antiviral treatments to residents quickly
New York City has struggled to get COVID-19 antiviral treatments to residents quickly

New York City has struggled to get COVID-19 antiviral treatments to residents quickly

When Brooklyn resident Octavius ​​Moore tested positive for COVID-19, confirmed by two home tests, his staff gave him advice on how to treat his symptoms.

“A team member who was also tested positive after returning from Caucus Weekend told me about the antiviral treatment and that I should try to reach out and get a prescription for it. So I decided to do it,” Moore said. , who said he called a number through New York City Health + Hospitals to get the pills.

“I called the 800 number, which was awful. It took me three times to call the number to actually get it,” he said.

It was so hard for Moore to stay awake on his three 30-minute calls to Health + Hospitals that when he finally got in touch with an operator, they had to scream on the phone to wake him from his virus-related fatigue .

In response, Dr. Ted Long, senior vice president of outpatient care and public health at New York City Health + Hospitals: “Our experience has been that the wait has been pretty good, but we always welcome more feedback.”

Moore’s experience – waiting a long time to get in touch with the hospital system to get a prescription and get a friend to pick up the prescription because he was too ill to get it himself – has not been unique. Several other people in New York City has reported the same problem and inability of Alto, the city’s preferred delivery service, to provide them with medication in a timely manner.

With COVID-19, treatment must be started within five to seven daysdepending on the drug, to test positive. If antiviral drugs are taken too late, a person’s symptoms may continue to worsen, even for those who have been vaccinated.

Antiviral treatments, ranging from pills like Pfizer’s Paxlovid to an intravenous infusion of antibodies, were initially available in late January to seniors in the city as well as to immunocompromised residents who tested positive.

Although at the end of March, treatments were available to anyone who tested positive, either through PCR testing or home testing, and wanted to ensure that their symptoms would not worsen after a positive test.

Health + Hospitals has distributed more than 3,500 prescriptions to Paxlovid, with 90% of these prescriptions being filled out through their telephone system, according to spokesmen Patrick Gallahue and Adam Shrier. The system has also delivered 22,000 courses of Paxlovid, of which about 75% are located through Alto.

I called the 800 number, which was awful. It took me three times to call the number to actually get it.

– Octavius ​​Moore, resident of Brooklyn, at New York City Health + Hospital’s COVID-19 antiviral hotline

I called the 800 number, which was awful. It took me three times to call the number to actually get it.

Moore heard about these treatments from someone who got the virus at his workplace and was able to get a prescription for the antiviral medication to alleviate his symptoms. While the treatments have been widely available for a few months, public health experts said antiviral drugs have not been widely used outside of social media and through word of mouth.

Miesha Marzell, a public health professor at Binghamton University, said high-profile politicians who tested positive for COVID-19 and immediately received the best treatments might be reluctant to talk about antiviral drugs and their availability compared to the frustrations residents have had with also to get them.

“It kind of reveals that difference. I don’t think they could advertise it because they know it’s almost hypocritical,” Marzell said.

She added: “In terms of advertising … this is speculation that public health officials, officials are just a little reluctant to really say that this is what you should do when the drug may not have been readily available in their communities. . “

New York Mayor Eric Adams tested positive for COVID-19 in April and started an antiviral cure right away. “We have come so far in our fight against # COVID19 and make no mistake: we are winning. Vaccines and antiviral treatments are saving lives from this formidable enemy.” he tweeted.

The city has run public service announcements similar to those that became popular with former health commissioner Dr. Dave Chokshi on social mediaand the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has been working with local media to be notified of these treatments in several languages. Plus, the city has begun one Test to treat program that allows certain pharmacies to test patients for COVID-19 and, if they test positive, may prescribe Paxlovid on the spot.

However, transmission rates are increasing due to the proliferation of different omicron subvariants. Hospital admissions and deaths due to this new increase, which has pushed the city back to “high” levels infection, could be mitigated with the widespread availability of antiviral therapies.

According to US Department of Health and Human ServicesNew York City has more than 500 pharmacies where residents can get Paxlovid.

Some public health experts, though happy to hear about the availability of these treatments, felt that their availability at pharmacies may not have been known by residents looking for a prescription after they tested positive at home.

“Often, people who are older may not have access to the same information that you have on social media. I think the city needs to make more, perhaps more targeted, outreach contact to community members who are in these different groups who would benefit most from it, “said Dr. Oni Blackstock, Founder and CEO of Health Justice, a consulting firm. group focused on anti-racism and equality in health care.

Blackstock said these advertising campaigns should be more focused on the audience that could benefit most from these treatments.

Complaints about messages and communication regarding these treatments can be expected from residents like Moore, who had first-hand experience dealing with the city’s bureaucracy. He and experts like Marzell both believed that delivery and over-the-counter options should be better implemented to ensure that New Yorkers can treat their symptoms in a timely and safe manner.

Marzell said, “So it’s like we have the tools in the state of New York. We have the tools in the country. We have the tools in the world, but who gets the tools? To whom do these efforts come?”

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