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Those high-risk people who want protection from the deadly COVID-19 have reasons to smile today.

On Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration authorized the first Covid-19 antiviral pill in the United States to protect against severe disease.

In a statement, FDA said the oral drug, called Paxlovid, from Pfizer will be prescribed for use in adults and children ages 12 and up with mild to moderate Covid who are at risk for severe disease or hospitalization.

Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the agency’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research said the use of the drug is a major step in their efforts to stop the ongoing COVID pandemic.

“This authorization provides a new tool to combat Covid-19 at a crucial time in the pandemic as new variants emerge and promises to make antiviral treatment more accessible to patients who are at high risk for progression to severe Covid-19,” Cavazzoni said in a statement.

Sources said while the drug is not a replacement for vaccinations, they add an easily administered treatment to help keep people at high risk of severe illness out of the hospital.

The experts said the use of the drug is a huge help to the medical profession since it will ease the burden on hospitals as infections are expected to continue to surge this winter with the emergence of the omicron variant, already the dominant strain in the U.S.

As a new drug, it is expected that initially, the supply of the drug is likely to be extremely limited.

Meanwhile, Pfizer revealed a final analysis of its clinical trials found its drug to be 89 percent effective at preventing high-risk people from being hospitalized or dying from Covid, which was consistent with the results of the interim analysis the company released early last month.

Pfizer added that the pill should work against the omicron variant, which is the dominant variant in the U.S.

Moreover, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company expects to have 180,000 courses of treatment available by the end of the year and as many as 80 million courses by the end of next year.

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