Coronavirus Chronicles

Need Paxlovid? Washington's Telehealth Program Ups Access

Securing Covid antiviral medication just got a whole lot easier.

By Ann Karneus August 8, 2022

Hate to break it to you: Covid's not over yet. On the bright side, our understanding of the virus and subsequent disease has increased exponentially—remember when we were disinfecting our groceries?—resulting in more effective and accessible methods to prevent and treat Covid.

We have masks, vaccines, a plethora of places to get tested, even swab-it-yourself options. Now Washingtonians can add potentially lifesaving medication to that list, just a video call away.

Covid antivirals, like Paxlovid, are only effective when taken within the first five days of symptoms—not exactly an easy task when your primary care doctor is typically booked out weeks or months. At the end of July, Washington launched an expanded version of the federal government's Test to Treat program, where anyone can get prescribed an oral antiviral quickly, with no need for insurance. The entire process typically takes less than 24 hours from start to finish.

Paxlovid, which is being prescribed under an emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, treats patients with mild to moderate cases who are at risk of developing more severe symptoms. The oral antiviral is specifically for those 12 and up (and over 88 pounds) who are immunocompromised or have conditions that might put them at higher risk for hospitalization or death. 

There are two ways to set up a telehealth appointment through Washington's program: Call the Washington State Department of Health hotline (1-800-525-0127) and then press the pound key, or fill out an online survey to determine if you’re eligible. If you're eligible, you'll receive a link and instructions on how to access the telehealth appointment (think Zoom but for the doctor's office).

One last thing: Covid meds like Paxlovid are not an adequate substitute for vaccines. Those shots, in conjunction with other safety measures, are still the most effective way to protect yourself as Covid transmission levels remain high.

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