How to get COVID-19 treatment in Michigan

We're two years into the global COVID-19 pandemic and scientists and researchers have developed new vaccines to offer protection against COVID-19 and also oral medications to treat the virus. Now the state of Michigan is urging everyone who has tested positive to talk to their doctors, if necessary.

If you test positive for COVID-19, there are two prescriptions which have received emergency use authorization by the FDA. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is urging anyone who tests positive to contact their doctor to determine if this is the correct treatment.

What are the COVID-19 oral medications?

Paxlovid and molnupiravir have both been granted emergency use authorization by the FDA. Paxlovid was developed by Michigan-based Pfizer while molnupiravir was developed by Merck.

Both medications are available by prescription only and Michigan received its first shipment in early January.

In the month since then, the state has received additional supplies but it is still limited.

Paxlovid is for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in patients 12 years of age and older who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and who meet the current Priority Eligibility Criteria.

Molnupiravir is for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults ages 18 and older who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death, and only when alternative COVID-19 treatment options authorized by FDA are not accessible or clinically appropriate and who meet the current Priority Eligibility Criteria.

Pfizer’s drug is part of a decades-old family of antiviral drugs known as protease inhibitors, which revolutionized the treatment of HIV and hepatitis C. The drugs block a key enzyme which viruses need to multiply in the human body. That's different than the Merck pill, which causes tiny mutations in the coronavirus until the point that it can't reproduce itself.

Boxes of Pfizer Inc.s Paxlovid antiviral medication arranged in a warehouse in Shoham, Israel, on Jan. 18, 2022. A fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was insufficient to prevent infection with the omicron variant of Covid-19, according to pre

Who is eligible for COVID-19 oral medications?

The prescription antivirals are designed for outpatient treatment of mild to moderate cases of COVID-19.  

Paxlovid is available for adults who have mild-to-moderate COVID-19 infections and are at risk of becoming seriously ill. 

When administered to non-hospitalized patients within five days of symptom onset, these antivirals may reduce symptoms and the risk of hospitalizations and emergency room visits associated with the virus.

For best results, patients need to start taking the pills within three days of symptoms, underscoring the need for speedy testing and diagnosis. That could be a challenge if another COVID-19 surge leads to testing delays and shortages seen last winter.

"We urge Michiganders to talk to their health care provider if they test positive for COVID-19 to determine the best treatment course. However, it's important to remember these drugs are still in limited supply and are not a substitution for protecting yourself by getting vaccinated and wearing a mask in public places," said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive. "Getting vaccinated continues to be the best protection against severe illness and hospitalization, and we urge all Michiganders over age 5 to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Continue to wear well-fitting masks over your nose and mouth, test and social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, avoid large gatherings and get vaccinated and boosted if you haven't already." 

Where to get a COVID-19 vaccine near you

There are currently three different vaccines that have been approved by the FDA: Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The three vaccines do not guarantee you won't be sick but all three have high efficacy rates in preventing serious illness and decrease the chances of hospitalization if you do get ill with COVID-19.

You can either register with your local health department or contact any pharmacy in Michigan to make an appointment to get your COVID-19 vaccine.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.