Mar 1, 2022 - Health

Biden announces COVID "test to treat" program

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union.

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union. Photo: Jim LoScalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden said tonight that more COVID antiviral treatments will become available sooner than expected and that his administration is launching a program to immediately get those pills to people who test positive for the virus.

Why it matters: The pills dramatically reduce the chances that someone with COVID will become severely ill, making them a key tool for living with the virus. But that hinges on getting patients access to them in a timely manner after testing positive.

Driving the news: Biden announced tonight that more than a million doses of Pfizer's antiviral pills will be available this month, which is hundreds of thousands more than was originally expected. More than double that amount will be available in April.

  • The administration worked with Pfizer to accelerate delivery of the pills, according to a White House official.

Biden also announced a new "test to treat" program, "so people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they’re positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost."

  • The program will cut out the burdensome steps between a positive test and access to the pills. People will instead be tested at local pharmacies and community health centers and be able to receive the antivirals right then, according to the White House official.
  • The administration will launch the "one-stop shops" this month, the official said. Hundreds of sites will open across the country at places like CVS, Walgreens and Kroger. The initiative will also distribute the pills directly to long-term care facilities.

What they're saying: "The new in-pharmacy Covid rapid test and free treatment (Paxlovid) initiative announced by @POTUS tonight is important," tweeted Scripps Research executive vice president Eric Topol.

  • "We need a much better supply of anti-Covid pills, accurate tests, and solid coordination with pharmacists to pull this off."

What we're watching: The administration will unveil its larger strategy for the next phase of the pandemic tomorrow, Politico reported earlier today.

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