SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– As more treatments for COVID-19 become available, figuring out if you qualify and how to get them can be a challenge.

“I recognize that for many community providers that may be being called about these agents it can be confusing,”

Dr. Elizabeth Asiago-Reddy, Chief Infectious Disease Expert, Upstate Medical University

The good news? These treatments work against protecting people from severe illness. Dr. Reddy said Pfizer’s oral pill, Paxlovid, is 88% effective in reducing the risk of severe COVID-19, but it’s only available for specific groups. 

The oral pill and other IV treatments are meant for those that are at the highest risk of progressing to severe COVID if they contract the virus. Dr. Reddy said the most vulnerable group is unvaccinated people above the age of 65, but people with weakened immune systems or comorbidities may also qualify. 

“We know that COVID has very significant impacts as we age so if you’re older and unvaccinated and you acquire COVID then that is really an emergency and you need to contact your healthcare provider immediately and try to access these therapies,” Dr. Reddy said.

And you need to act fast because the oral pills must be taken within five days from symptom onset and within seven days for IV treatments. You should also consult your doctor if you’re on any other medications as some have shown to interfere with the COVID-19 treatments.

“The drug has a few important things to keep in mind as a prescriber, it has some specific interactions with certain medications and you need to be relatively aware of whether or not the patient has any kidney problems because there could be dose adjustments needed or it might not be available to certain patients with kidney problems,”

Dr. Elizabeth Asiago-Reddy, Chief Infectious Disease Expert, Upstate Medical University

If you’re wondering if treatment is readily available in your neighborhood, you can check out the COVID-19 Therapeutic Locator, showing you in real-time what pharmacies near you have the medications in stock.  

You can also contact Upstate’s COVID-19 Hotline if you don’t have access to a primary healthcare provider and are seeking treatments. The number to reach them is (315) 464-3979. 

Dr. Reddy added that these treatments are not a replacement for the COVID-19 vaccines which still remain our most effective tool in protecting us from severe illness.