For Immediate ReleaseApril 28, 2022
Antiviral treatments lessen severity of disease for high-risk individuals
San Rafael, CA – Marin County Public Health (MCPH) is promoting awareness and access to potentially life-saving treatments for COVID-19 infections for residents who are at highest risk for severe outcomes. While vaccination continues to provide the best protection against COVID-19, ensuring access to therapeutics to treat the virus can reduce chance of severe illness, hospitalization, or death, when taken soon after symptom onset.
As case rates rise, oral antiviral treatments for COVID-19 are also increasingly available in Marin County by prescription from a health care provider. Medications can reduce chance of severe illness, hospitalization, or death when taken soon after symptom onset. An oral five-day course of Paxlovid, for example, has been shown to reduce hospitalization risk by 89% in higher-risk individuals when initiated within five days of symptom onset.
MCPH recommends that residents who are higher risk for serious outcomes should have home test kits available and test promptly for any COVID-19 symptoms and if positive, reach out to their medical provider to discuss a possible prescription for oral antiviral medication. Medical providers across the county are equipped to review with patients whether treatment is indicated and prescribe medication in one of several Marin pharmacies that carry COVID-19 treatment. Both testing and treatment are time sensitive to be fully effective.
COVID-19 case rates in Marin have doubled in the past three weeks following a regional trend fueled by the Omicron BA.2 variant. Yet hospitalizations have remained stable, with no patients currently in intensive care for COVID19 countywide. While high vaccination is the primary reason for lower hospitalizations, the increased use of treatments for the highest-risk patients is a supplemental effort to prevent severe illness. Approximately 5% of known COVID-19 patients in Marin are being prescribed medication, based on weekly case counts and weekly allocations of COVID-19 medication countywide.
“Most of us in Marin are fully vaccinated, have had at least one booster, and don’t have any serious underlying conditions that increase risk,” said Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County Public Health Officer. “That means most of us don’t need antiviral treatment if we’re infected. Our goal is to make sure those who would benefit most from treatment have no barriers to access.”
Antiviral treatments are strong medications with potentially significant side effects and interactions with other medications and carry their own risks. For this reason, these medications are only available through a prescription from a certified health care provider who has performed a thorough evaluation of the risks and benefits in each case, including a comprehensive review of existing medications. Treatment is not offered without a positive test within the previous five days.
Residents who cannot receive a COVID-19 vaccination for medical reasons, or whose immune system is not strong enough to mount a response to the vaccine, should speak to their provider about available therapeutics used to prevent COVID-19 infections.
Marin health care providers should follow the prescribing protocol defined in Marin County Department of Health and Human Service’s recent Public Health Advisory and use the COVID-19 therapeutics locator to identify nearby pharmacy options. There are 20 pharmacy or health care sites providing antivirals across Marin, with five located in under-resourced neighborhoods.
In addition to provider prescription, residents may also access COVID-19 treatments via Test-to-Treat locations, which offer COVID-19 testing, assessment by a qualified health care provider, and oral antiviral pills in one location. This ensures that people who are at high risk for developing severe disease will get treatment quickly and easily if they test positive and if administration of an antiviral is appropriate.
The Test to Treat Initiative, launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last month, is available at Marin Community Clinics in San Rafael and will be offered at three additional Carbon Health urgent care locations starting next week. More locations are likely to be added in the coming weeks.
Because residents of long-term care facilities are often at highest risk for severe illness of infected, MCPH continues to work with facilities to ensure that all residents have timely access to treatment when needed.
MCPH continues to emphasize vaccination as the ultimate preventative option.
Residents who think they may be a candidate for therapeutics should visit MCPH’s COVID-19 Therapeutics webpage or contact their health care provider for more information.
Dr. Matthew WillisPublic Health OfficerHealth and Human Services
3240 Kerner Blvd.San Rafael, CA 94901(415) 473-4163Email: Dr. Matthew WillisMarin HHS website