CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) – It’s been about six months since Paxlovid has been on the market following FDA approval last December. The anti-viral pills require a prescription and need to be started within five days of COVID-19 symptoms appearing.

“It’s designed for high risk but when you look into the factors that constitute high risk, it’s quite varied. Age alone over 65 and the list of what constitutes the risk factor or comorbidity is very long. You know the typical ones, cancer, obesity, even things like inactivity there’s quite a list and you’d be surprised how many falls into that category once they test positive,” said Chief Medical Officer for Chesapeake Regional Healthcare, Raymond McCue.

McCue said a few months ago it was hard to get your hands on Paxlovid, but now plenty of pharmacies have it in stock.

“It’s really designed to protect you from severe disease. By severe disease we mean hospitalization, ICU ventilation, and even death. Does it truly eliminate the disease? No. but it certainly protects you from the sequala of a more serious infection,” McCue said.

“All the testing went on before the recent Omicron variants came out, we call them the sister variants, the BA4 and BA5 and so it was almost 90 percent effective against the variants that were in part of the study. Didn’t really know how it was going to fare against the Omicron, but it appears to be equally effective against the Omicron, although that’s not primarily who the drug was tested against,” said McCue.

McCue added that the sooner you take it, the better and some people may not even know they’re eligible, so reach out to your physician to see if you’re a candidate for the drug.

“The message to get out, so many people are testing from home that when you do test positive it really is in your advantage in your overall health to check with your primary care doctor to see if you qualify for your medication because it can make quite a difference,” said McCue.

McCue said almost everyone he’s talked to who’s taken Paxlovid has experienced dysgeusia. In this case, it’s a foul metallic taste that goes away 24 hours after you stop using the drug.

Paxlovid is being distributed for free by the U.S. Federal Government or paid for by health insurance carriers.

He also says there’s been concern about rebound of symptoms when you come off it, but they’re finding that’s in less than one percent of patients.