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Photo: Soumyabrata Roy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Pfizer said Thursday that the U.S. will buy 10 million courses of its COVID antiviral pill Paxlovid for $5.29 billion by 2022 if it gains an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

Why it matters: With the purchase, the Biden administration is now set to receive over 13 million courses of antiviral medications designed specifically to treat COVID-19 and reduce severe illness and deaths.

  • The administration is also procuring 3 million courses of an oral antiviral COVID-19 pill developed by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics for $2.2 billion.

What they're saying: “We were thrilled with the recent results of our Phase 2/3 interim analysis, which showed overwhelming efficacy of PAXLOVID in reducing the risk of hospitalization among high-risk patients treated within three days of symptom onset by almost 90% and with no deaths, and are pleased the U.S. government recognizes this potential,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.

  • "This promising treatment could help accelerate our path out of this pandemic by offering another life-saving tool for people who get sick with COVID-19," Health Secretary Xavier Becerra said.

President Biden said in a statement that his administration "is making the necessary preparations now to ensure these treatments will be easily accessible and free."

  • "This treatment could prove to be another critical tool in our arsenal that will accelerate our path out of the pandemic."
  • Biden said that vaccines remain "our strongest tool," adding that his main message to Americans is to "get vaccinated."

By the numbers: The Pfizer pill regimen was shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by 89% in people at high risk of severe illness, Pfizer said earlier this month.

  • The pill was developed specifically to treat COVID-19, by blocking the activity of the main enzyme the virus needs to multiply.

The big picture: Antiviral drugs can be a key pandemic-fighting tool in the U.S. and abroad, as not everyone will get inoculated against the virus and developing countries may not have access to large quantities of vaccines for years to come.

Go deeper: Pfizer says COVID pill cuts risk of death or hospitalization by 89%

Go deeper

Updated 19 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine — Pfizer could have vaccine data for children under five by end of 2021, CEO says.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
Updated 2 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Electric car prices could go up before they come down

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The secret to affordable electric vehicles is cheaper batteries. But after years of falling prices, battery costs are now headed in the wrong direction.

Why it matters: Costlier batteries could drive up the price of electric vehicles — threatening the auto industry's transition away from fossil fuels, and, in turn, society's fight against climate change.

Axios Visuals Deep Dive: Pandemic eating

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A food revolution began pre-pandemic and COVID has only accelerated that. See how America's food industry is transforming, from farm to your table.