New York City will deliver antiviral pills to treat COVID-19 for free to residents who test positive and are at high risk for serious illness.
“We want to make sure no one with COVID has to move throughout the city, especially for those who have [sic] immune-compromised, or our elderly. We want to bring it to you,” Mayor Eric Adams said Sunday during a press conference at the Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized two antiviral pills for emergency use last month: Paxlovid made by Pfizer, which is headquartered in the city, and molnupiravir made by New Jersey-based Merck. City officials said they have acquired both brands, which are taken daily for five days to reduce the amount of virus in the body and prevent symptoms from worsening.
Paxlovid is authorized for use in adults and children 12 years and older. Three pills are taken together twice a day, for a total of 30 tablets over five days. Molnupiravir is approved for adults 18 years or older; four tablets are taken every 12 hours for five days, for a total of 40 pills.
City officials said they began delivering the antivirals in late December in partnership with Alto Pharmacy. Supplies of the drugs are limited, but city officials didn’t immediately say how much they had in stock.
To be eligible for free delivery of the antiviral pills, New York City residents must:
- Be 12 years or older and weigh at least 88 lbs.
- Have a positive COVID test
- Have mild to moderate symptoms
- Not be hospitalized
- Have a medical condition or other factor that increases their risk of illness
- Be within five days of symptom onset
Guidelines on the city’s website recommend residents older than 65 or with underlying conditions could benefit the most from the antiviral medication.
“I’ve been aching for the day where I can give my patients a pill to save their lives,” said Dr. Ted Long, NYC Test & Trace Corps Executive Director and a primary care doctor in the Bronx. He said residents who don’t have a primary care doctor to obtain a prescription for the antiviral medication can call 212-COVID19 (212-258-4319) to be connected to a health care provider from NYC Health + Hospitals.
“There’s no barriers to having access to this new medication to everybody across New York City however you’ve been tested,” Dr. Long said. He said residents could request the treatment from a doctor whether they tested positive on a lab PCR test or an at-home test.
Alto Pharmacy said any prescriptions received by 5 p.m. on a weekday or 1 p.m. on a weekend will be delivered the same day. Any prescriptions received afterward will be delivered the next day, according to a company press release from December.
Adams publicly announced the home delivery program on Sunday as he touted the city’s growing vaccination rates and the ongoing drop in new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. To date, 75% of city residents are fully vaccinated and 85% of adults are fully vaccinated, Adams said.