coronavirus

New COVID-19 Treatment Pills Headed to San Diego County County

Once the new drugs arrive in the region, they will initially be distributed through about two dozen pharmacies, pre-selected by the California Department of Public Health

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The first doses of two antiviral pills authorized by the Federal Drug Administration to treat COVID-19 orally will arrive in San Diego County soon, public health officials said Thursday.

The Food and Drug Administration this week issued emergency use authorizations for Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s molnupiravir this week but supplies of these medications "will initially be very limited and San Diegans should continue to mask up this holiday season to prevent infection," a statement from the county Health and Human Services Agency said.

The county expects its first shipment of Paxlovid in the next few days. Merck's molnupiravir, is expected to start arriving in the region soon after, according to the HHSA.

A prescription will be required for either drug and will be given to patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms but who are at risk of progressing to severe coronavirus disease, including hospitalization or death.

"The FDA's emergency use authorization of these new oral antivirals comes at a critical point in the pandemic as we see an increase in cases and a rapid spread of the Omicron variant," said Dr. Wilma J. Wooten, county public health officer. "However, news of the arrival of these drugs does not mean we can let our guard down.

"We need to continue to mask up, especially in crowded indoor spaces, and I urge anyone who has not gotten vaccinated, or is overdue for their booster shot, to get vaccinated as soon as possible," she said.

Once the new drugs arrive in the region, they will initially be distributed through about two dozen pharmacies, pre-selected by the California Department of Public Health. The amount each pharmacy is receiving is "based on community impact from the pandemic."

The state and county will expand distribution to more pharmacy locations as supplies increase.

On Wednesday, San Diego County public health officials reported 1,856 new COVID-19 cases and 10 additional deaths associated with the virus in, which increased the county's cumulative totals since the pandemic began to 403,358 infections and 4,434 deaths.

The number of coronavirus patients in San Diego County hospitals decreased by eight people to 355, according to the latest state figures. Of those patients, 96 were in intensive care, down four from Wednesday.

A total of 25,714 new tests were reported to the county on Wednesday. A total of 6.3% of all tests returned positive for the virus over the past week.

As of Wednesday, more than 6.03 million doses of the three vaccines now available had been administered throughout the San Diego County region.

More than 2.75 million county residents -- around 87.4% of all those eligible -- have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. More than 2.44 million San Diegans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, representing roughly 77.7% of eligible residents.

In addition, 683,780 booster shots have been administered in the region.

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