Paxlovid for COVID-19: What You Need to Know

On Dec. 22, 2021, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for a new medication to treat COVID-19. This medication is called nirmatrelvir and ritonavir (Paxlovid). Paxlovid is an oral medication that can be easily taken at home, similar to the way oseltamivir (Tamiflu) is taken for influenza (flu) infections. Here are a few important things about Paxlovid that parents and families should know.

Answering Your Frequently Asked Questions

What is Paxlovid?

Paxlovid is an oral antiviral medication that can be used to treat outpatients with COVID-19 infections. Paxlovid includes two different drugs: nirmatrelvir, which is a new drug, and ritonavir, which has been used for a long time in adults and children to treat other viral infections.

Is Paxlovid effective in treating COVID-19 in children?

In a study of unvaccinated adults who had risk factors for developing severe COVID-19 infection, such as an underlying medical condition or being older than 65, treatment with Paxlovid decreased the chance of hospitalization or death by approximately 89%. Paxlovid has NOT been studied in children, so it is not known whether children will benefit as much as adults from treatment with Paxlovid or experience different side effects of the medication than adults.

Is Paxlovid FDA-approved?

Paxlovid is not an FDA approved medicine and has not undergone the same level of review as an approved medicine. Paxlovid has received an emergency use authorization (EUA) to allow for administration of the treatment to individuals with COVID-19. The FDA uses this type of authorization for a medication when there is a public health emergency, a lack of alternative treatments for an illness or disease, and scientific evidence that patients with that specific illness or disease may benefit from the new medication. Paxlovid met these criteria as a new treatment for COVID-19.

Can any child with COVID-19 get a prescription for Paxlovid?

No. Paxlovid is only authorized for patients who are 12 years or older who weigh more than 40 kg (88 lbs). Children under 12, or children 12 or older who weigh less than 88 lbs, cannot receive Paxlovid. In addition, only children with underlying medical conditions that place them at high risk for severe COVID-19 infection can receive Paxlovid. Paxlovid also comes only in tablet form, so recipients of this medication need to be able to take three pills twice daily for five days. Finally, there are many drugs that interact with Paxlovid, and in some scenarios, it is not safe to give Paxlovid in addition to other medications your child may need.

How do I get Paxlovid for my child?

Paxlovid is available by prescription only. If your child develops symptoms of COVID-19 and tests positive, your child’s healthcare provider can consider prescribing Paxlovid, provided your child meets the strict EUA criteria for its use described above. The best way to obtain Paxlovid is to contact your child’s physician as soon as possible after your child tests positive for COVID-19 to discuss whether this medication would be beneficial for your child. 

What else can I do now?

Preventing a SARS-CoV-2 infection is the best way to keep your child safe from COVID-19. All patients 5 and older should receive their COVID-19 vaccine as soon as possible, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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