In March 2022, the U.S. federal government launched a new initiative called Test to Treat, which allows anyone in the U.S., regardless of immigration status, to visit one of hundreds of sites across the U.S. and be evaluated by a medical provider for treatment for COVID-19. If the provider determines that you have tested positive for COVID-19 and you would benefit from treatment, they may prescribe you antiviral pills that can decrease your risk of hospitalization and death.
- What are antiviral pills, and how do they fight COVID-19?
There are a few types of antiviral pill currently available to treat COVID-19, including:
Paxlovid, developed by Pfizer, is a pill that was given emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2021. This means that Paxlovid is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19. Paxlovid is taken as three pills, twice a day, for 5 days, and it's approved for individuals 12 and older.
Molnupiravir, developed by Merck, was also given emergency use authorization by the FDA in December 2021. It is taken as 4 pills, twice a day for 5 days and is approved for individuals 18 and older.
Antiviral drugs work by limiting a virus's ability to make copies of itself inside your cells.
- Will the medical provider prescribe me antiviral pills?
The medical provider who evaluates you will determine whether to prescribe you antiviral pills. First, they will determine whether you have tested positive for COVID-19. If you have not tested positive, you are not eligible for antiviral pills.
If you have tested positive, they will then decide whether to prescribe you antiviral pills. They may decide to prescribe you antiviral pills if you are age 65 or older, or if you have a medical condition or another factor that increases your risk for severe COVID-19. Conditions and factors that increase your risk for severe COVID-19 may include diabetes, obesity, smoking, pregnancy, and heart, lung, liver, and kidney disease. Based on your medical history, the medical provider will decide whether you could benefit from antiviral pills.
Even if you have tested positive, you may not be eligible for antiviral pills if you cannot start treatment within 5 days of your symptoms starting, if you have severe COVID-19 symptoms or are hospitalized due to COVID-19, or if you test positive but are asymptomatic.
- How much does testing and treatment for COVID-19 cost?
If you visit an official Test to Treat site, testing, and treatment should be free. You may be asked for insurance information, but if you do not have medical insurance, you should still be able to receive free testing and treatment. If you visit and Test to Treat site and are asked to pay for services, you can call our hotline: 1-855-234-9699
- Are both antiviral pills the same?
Both types of pills have been shown to be effective at reducing hospitalization and death, but Paxlovid is more effective. In studies, Paxlovid reduced death and hospitalization among high-risk, unvaccinated people by about 90%. At a test and treat location, a provider can discuss these options with you if they determine that you would benefit from antiviral treatment.
- Do I need to get vaccinated since I can take these pills if I get sick?
Vaccination remains the most effective way to prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19 and to limit the spread to your loved ones. Even if you get sick and are treated with antiviral pills, you should consider getting vaccinated after you recover to protect yourself in the future.
All people in the U.S. 5 years and older are eligible to be vaccinated and receive a booster dose, and everyone over 50 years of age and those who are immunocompromised are eligible for a fourth dose (second booster).
To find a vaccination opportunity near you, visit vaccines.gov.
- What is the Test to Treat location closest to me?
You can use this tool to find a Test to Treat location near you. Enter your address or zip code into the white box, and then click the Enter key on your keyboard or the magnifying glass. On the map, you will see two colors of dots: whitish gray and blue. The blue dots are Test to Treat locations, whereas the white dots may have antiviral pills, but you would need a prior prescription from a healthcare provider.
To see a list of the locations, you can click the gray arrow next to the words, "Locations with testing, medical visits, and medication (Test-to-Treat)." A list of sites should appear, and you can make an appointment by clicking on the blue link below the name of the site.
If you are not able to use the online tool, you can also call a hotline set up by the U.S. federal government to find a Test to Treat site near you. The hotline number is 1-800-232-0233, and it is available 8:00 am to midnight ET, 7 days a week.