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"I really felt a difference": How increasing access to Paxlovid could help America get out of the COVID pandemic

White House aims to boost use of Paxlovid
White House aims to boost use of COVID drugs like Paxlovid 02:57

Ashley Ballou Bonnema tested positive for COVID-19 on Easter weekend. As someone with cystic fibrosis, she knew it could be bad. 

Her medical team prescribed her Pfizer's Paxlovid antiviral pills, which can reduce the risk of becoming severely ill. She took two pills a day for five days and said she noticed a change right away. 

"Within the first 24 hours, I really felt a difference," she told CBS News' Nancy Cordes. 

Currently, the medication is only available at about 20,000 sites around the country, but on Tuesday the White House announced plans to allow thousands of participating pharmacies to directly order highly effective COVID-19 treatments like Paxlovid.  

CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus explains that the drug prevents the virus from replicating in the body. 

"I have seen patients of mine who, when I put them on Paxlovid, literally a day later they feel dramatically different," said Agus. 

Paxlovid was first authorized by the Food and Drug Administration in December, for use by those age 12 and up who have an elevated risk of developing severe COVID. But that's still about 60% of the adult population — including anyone with obesity, heart disease or diabetes. 

The White House also plans to launch additional "test-to-treat" sites, where Americans can get diagnosed and receive the pills in a single visit. 

"The notion they can go to a pharmacy, test, and within 30 minutes, start a pill to fight the virus, is really powerful. and I think it's what's going to get us out of the COVID-19 pandemic we're in now, and allow us to live with the virus," Agus said. 

In order to work, antivirals like Paxlovid need to be taken starting within the first 5 days of the illness.  

But the White House is warning that their ability to purchase more Paxlovid is going to be impacted if Congress doesn't approve their latest COVID funding request

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