BOISE, Idaho — The state of Idaho now has access to several new COVID-19 fighting resources. One, a pill called Paxlovid, is to treat symptoms of the coronavirus when someone starts getting sick with COVID.
“We received, I think, 240 doses or treatment courses," state epidemiologist Dr. Christine Hahn said. "So, not a lot. We are hoping that will increase a lot because we want that to be a medication available for Idahoans who come down with COVID."
Hahn said Idaho just got the new pill this week. Another pill like it is expected soon. Since doses are limited for now, so are the people who will get it.
“Similarly, to the monoclonal antibodies, Paxlovid will be reserved for people who are at high risk for getting severe disease or get hospitalized with COVID,” Hahn said.
Hahn said the pill will be available by prescription only but there is hope that more doses of the medicine will soon be available to Idaho.
There’s been recent concerns about the use of monoclonal antibodies to fight off the omicron variant. Monoclonal antibodies work by attaching to the virus and preventing the virus from infecting cells. The treatment only works if a person gets COVID or if they are immunocompromised and exposed to the virus.
New research shows that only one of the three monoclonal treatments available in the U.S. is truly effective against omicron. Hahn said because of that, Idaho will only be allowed to order the one effective monoclonal antibody treatment.
“We are very discouraged to say that we expect a drop in overall availability," Hahn said. "The Sotrovimab, which is the one that we will still have, is available to us in only really small numbers. We are taking everything we can get and making sure it is getting out to those monoclonal antibody treatment sites, but we know overall there will be a drop in availability."
Since the other two treatments are not effective against omicron and there is no quick way to find out what variant a patient needs treatment for, the U.S. is transitioning to the one treatment that is effective against the omicron variant. Like the new anti-viral pill, Idaho and all states has limited access to Sotrovimab.
“We do have some, not very much yet," Hahn said. "We are continuing to order, we will be ordering some more this week, everything the federal government lets us order, we are ordering."
The Department of Health and Welfare is asking providers to be thoughtful and reserve the treatment to patients with the highest risk.
Another new piece of medicine now in Idaho is also to treat those who are most at risk with COVID. It is called Evusheld and is made to protect vulnerable people whose immune systems are unlikely to respond well to a COVID vaccine. For example, someone who is immunocompromised or someone in delicate health like a cancer patient could use the new medicine.
“These antibodies will protect them from getting sick with COVID for at least 6 months and possibly longer," Hahn said. "So, this is a wonderful protect that we are excited to start having it distributed to Idaho patients with cancer, patients who need transplants, and other severe immunodeficiencies."
Like the other new treatments, Idaho has limited access for now to Evusheld. But, Hahn said the treatment is encouraging for those that have been waiting for it for months.
“The availability of Evusheld as a way to protect people who are severe immunocompromise, who we know - even if they are vaccinated - have had to be so worried and we are hoping that this offers really security for those folks," Hahn said.
Facts not fear: More on coronavirus
See our latest updates in our YouTube playlist: