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The Biden administration announced new actions it intends to take to expand the country’s infrastructure for testing and treating the coronavirus, including making oral antivirals and preventative options easier to access for everyday Americans.
Senior administration officials at the White House discussed new steps Monday to ramp up distribution capacity, which included nearly doubling the number of places oral antivirals are available, and the new installation of federally-supported test-to-treat sites.
This image provided by Pfizer in October 2021 shows the company’s COVID-19 Paxlovid pills. U.S. health regulators on Wednesday, Dec. 22, 2021 authorized the first pill against COVID-19, a Pfizer drug that Americans will be able to take at home to head off the worst effects of the virus. (Pfizer via AP) (Pfizer via AP)
“These actions will help strengthen and further build the infrastructure to ensure that lifesaving treatments for COVID-19 are quickly distributed around the country, widely available and easy to access,” the officials said.
“To date, the administration has worked with pharmacies, long-term care facilities, community health centers, and other health care settings to establish more than 2,200 tests-to-treat sites around the country, including sites specifically for military families and veterans,” the White House added. “As a result, usage of oral antivirals has more than doubled over the last several weeks. But more is needed to make these treatments even easier to access and make sure health care providers and patients know about their safety, efficacy and availability.”
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a Fourth of July event on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Sunday, July 4, 2021. Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images (Photographer: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
The White House also specified its intention to support medical providers with more guidance and tools to understand and prescribe treatments, and to communicate these new safe treatment options to the American people.
First on the Biden administration’s agenda is to nearly double the places where oral antivirals can be accessed, a process which could take several weeks.
“Starting this week, the administration will allow all pharmacy partners in the federal antivirals pharmacy program representing tens of thousands of pharmacy locations nationwide to order free antiviral treatments directly from the federal government,” officials said.
FILE – A sign points to a COVID testing site at the Cincinnati Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Cincinnati, on Jan. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Jeff Dean, File) (AP)
These pharmaceutical drugs will soon be available in more than 30,000 locations, a number the administration hopes to swell to 40,000 through a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and its pharmacy partners, it said.
One specific oral antiviral the administration is looking to swiftly move into circulation is Pfizer’s pill Paxlovid.
The administration described the pill as “the most effective available treatment… which has been shown to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by about 90%.”
“The U.S. has committed to purchase 20 million treatment courses—more than any other country in the world,” it added.
FILE – This undated image provided by Pfizer in November 2021 shows the company’s COVID-19 pills. (Pfizer via AP, File) ((Pfizer via AP, File))
Next, the Biden administration also intends to expand federally-supported COVID-19 tests-to-treat sites, working alongside state governments, local health agencies, and their respective jurisdictions to ensure wide availability.
“These sites will be targeted to meet demand and increase equitable access to lifesaving COVID-19 treatment and will function in direct collaboration with state and local health agencies,” officials said.
Lastly, the administration intends to keep healthcare providers across the country informed on the latest effective prescription of COVID-19 treatments, as well as patient side effects and risk factors.
“The administration has been working for months with health care providers around the country to inform them about new treatments with weekly webinars, with state and territorial health officials, health care and medical organizations,” the White House said. “The administration will continue actively engaging the clinical community to broaden awareness and understanding of these treatments and to make sure that health care providers are counseling their patients about these effective treatments, prescribing them when appropriate and helping patients identify where their prescription can be filled.”
These additional measures, however, will require securing additional funding from Congress, the administration said.
Fox News’ Kristina Biddle contributed to this report.