COVID-19

Coronavirus US: is the pill as effective as the vaccine?

Many are wondering if Pfizer's new antiviral is as effective as the vaccine... but they should not be compared as they serve two distinct purposes.

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Coronavirus US: is the pill as effective as the vaccine?
DON EMMERT AFP

Late last week Pfizer announced the positive results of a recent clinical trial for an antiviral medication to treat covid-19. The statement released by the company highlighted that the medication, PAXLOVID™, was "found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% compared to placebo in non-hospitalized high-risk adults with COVID-19."

Around 1,200 people participated in the study and within the group that was given the medication, no deaths were reported, compared to ten in the placebo group. The trial results also show that the medication is effective even when taken as many as five days after symptoms appear.

Based on the findings the company reported that it "will cease further enrollment into the study due to the overwhelming efficacy" and submit the findings to the Food and Drug Administration to seek Emergency Use Authorization.

The differences between PAXLOVID™ and a vaccine

PAXLOVID™ is a therapeutic, meaning that if approved, it will be taken by patients who test positive for covid-19. One of the reasons covid-19 was and continues to be more deadly than other viruses is because doctors and scientists had no information on what would be the best course of treatment.

Since the virus emerged various techniques like pruning where patients are moved into various positions to reduce the chance of clotting and treatments like monoclonal body anti-treatments have emerged. However, when hospital systems become overwhelmed, medical staff has less time to focus on each patient and the supply of antibodies can be completely depleted.

The availability of PAXLOVID™ could change the landscape for treating covid-19. By reducing the risk of hospitalization, it could safeguard against the collapse of the medical system which leads to excess death, not only from covid-19 but other health emergencies as well.

Vaccines

Vaccines, unlike this new treatment, cannot be taken once someone has been diagnosed with covid-19. This summer as the Delta variant led to one of the greatest waves of infection in the US, many hospitalized patients begged for vaccines, but at that point, it was too late.

Not everyone who gets vaccinated will be protected completely from the virus. Some people will still require hospitalization and some will die. This should not be shocking. When all vaccine manufacturers released the data from their clinical trials, none reported that their vaccine was one hundred percent effective. What is important to remember, is that the data shows that even in cases where a vaccinated person contracts the virus, they are much less likely to suffer from a severe or fatal infection.

The new medication could help patients, those unvaccinated and not, if they test positive for covid-19, while vaccines help to bring down the probability that a person is diagnosed with the virus.