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US says use of Pfizer’s antiviral COVID-19 up 315%

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WASHINGTON — Use of Paxlovid, Pfizer Inc.’s oral antiviral treatment for COVID-19, has surged 315% over the past four weeks, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday as health officials try to meet weaker-than-expected demand .

Nearly 115,000 packs of the pills were distributed in the first week of May, a senior health official said. The White House said last month it aims to expand access to treatments like Paxlovid by doubling the number of sites where they are available.

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“In the last few weeks we have gone from 20,000 sites with Paxlovid to about 35,000 and we will continue to work to increase availability,” the official told reporters on a call, adding that 88% of the population lived within 5 miles . a website.

A total of 668,954 courses from the more than 2 million orders from countries, pharmacies and other providers were carried out.

Paxlovid is approved to prevent high-risk people with COVID-19 from becoming seriously ill. It is meant to be taken for five days, beginning shortly after the onset of symptoms.

Vendors have ordered nearly 1.8 million cycles of molnupiravir, Merck & Co’s competing oral antiviral drug co-developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics, and 230,257 have been administered to date, the official added.

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Quantities pale in comparison to overall supply, with the U.S. currently having over 3.3 million courses of Paxlovid and nearly 3.2 million courses of molnupiravir available, HHS data shows.

“The number of cases went down as our supply of Paxlovid increased, so we didn’t see any significant uptake until now we could draw more heavily on supply and at the same time we started to see an increase in cases,” the official said.

The United States is averaging nearly 97,000 new cases per day, up from about 73,000 a week ago, according to a Reuters tally https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-TRENDS/dgkvlgkrkpb. Cases have been rising gradually since hitting a recent low of 30,000 new infections a day in late March.

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Apple Inc. is indefinitely postponing its plan to require employees to work from the office three days a week due to rising cases, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday estimated that about half of the infections over the past week came from the BA.2.12.1 sublineage of the Omicron variant, which has been on the rise since mid-April and is already at by far the dominant tribe is the east coast.

As a percentage of population, the U.S. Northeast has seen the largest spike in new cases over the past seven days, led by Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

According to a Reuters tally, nearly 20,000 people are currently in hospital across the country, up from 16,500 last week. Hospital admissions have also been rising steadily from a recent low of 12,000 in mid-April.

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In terms of population, the states with the most hospital admissions are Maine, New York and Delaware.

New York City on Tuesday raised its COVID-19 alert level to high, and its public health department is advising strongly that masks be worn in all indoor public spaces for everyone and in crowded outdoor areas for those over 65 or at high risk.

Deaths, a lagging indicator, have remained fairly stable at between 300 and 500 on a daily average. COVID-19 has killed more than a million US citizens since the pandemic began.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the use of a booster shot of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, making everyone age 5 and older eligible for a third shot.

The government has shipped around 360 million coronavirus tests to homes across the country, the official said, and opened a third round of orders on its website COVIDtest.gov on Monday to accommodate additional requests.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Additional reporting by Michael Erman in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Lisa Shumaker)

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