FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The White House is expanding the availability of a treatment to help COVID patients before symptoms become severe.
The treatment is called Paxlovid, it's a regimen produced by Pfizer that has proven to reduce hospitalizations and deaths.
"There's no injections," says Dr. Kenny Banh with UCSF Fresno. "You actually get a course of treatment, pills you take, we can give you your first one here but mostly, we prescribe it and you pick it up at the pharmacy."
Four pharmacies in Fresno currently carry the treatment. It recommends that patients start the treatment within five days of symptoms appearing and those that qualify must meet certain criteria.
"Over 12 and have a high-risk factor," Dr. Banh said. "There are lots of high-risk factors -- the most common being that if you are over 50, you are high-risk already."
Supply at first was limited, only being given to patients 65 years or older. The Biden administration is now taking steps to expand availability as Vice President Kamala Harris started taking the treatment after testing positive for COVID-19 Tuesday.
"Right now, there are about 20,000 sites that have them," says White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish K. Jha. "Our hope is pretty soon, pharmacies will be able to order directly from the federal government. That will get us to about 30,000, eventually to 40,000. Basically, every pharmacy in America should be able to get it."
Health professionals explained why someone might choose Paxlovid over monoclonal antibody treatments, and how the treatment combats the virus.
"This oral antiviral is actually stopping the replication, fighting the virus throughout your entire body," Dr. Banh said. "So it's actually not just for respiratory COVID, it's for COVID throughout."
By taking this treatment, patients will be able to avoid injections and as health professionals work to get more supply, they want to remind people that Paxlovid is not a preventative treatment.