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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Some 368 COVID patients have received antiviral treatment

Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López

By John McPhaul

Two weeks after the antiviral treatments for patients with a positive test result for COVID-19 and at risk of developing severe disease arrived on the island, some 368 people have received the medicine, while the Department of Health continues coordinating to obtain more medicines for community pharmacies and hospitals, Puerto Rico’s health secretary said Thursday.

“We are happy with the reception and hope that this tool can help us mitigate the rise in hospitalizations,” Health Secretary Carlos Mellado López said in a written statement. “The drug has proven its effectiveness in preventing the severity of the COVID-19 disease. According to projections, hospitalizations should stabilize over the next two weeks and if we add the use of the treatments that we have available, we must accelerate that process. While this is happening, we need the collaboration of all citizens to protect ourselves from contagion and above all to protect the most vulnerable, those who cannot be vaccinated and suffer from health conditions that put the patient at greater risk.”

Mellado López noted that as of Thursday, 290 prescriptions for the drug Paxlovid from Pfizer and 78 prescriptions for Molnupiravir from Merck had been filled.

This week, about 68 community pharmacies on the island should receive an allocation of antiviral drugs, the health chief said. Another 32 pharmacies asked the federal government to include them in the next drug allocations, he said, while another 4,320 treatments are expected to arrive on the island this week and will be distributed to providers.

Mellado López said the Paxlovid and Molnupiravir pills must be started within five days after the onset of symptoms and a positive diagnosis for the virus. They are completely free and issued with a medical order. The official specified that hospitalizations are late indicators and the goal should be to avoid the risk of infections through vaccination with booster doses and the proper use of precautionary preventive measures.

The island’s main medical officer, Iris Cardona, pointed to the booster dose as the necessary protection tool against variants.

“The virus has been unpredictable and we have to move fast to prevent the advance of the virus,” she said. “We have more tools than a year ago and our goal is to be able to identify infected people at risk of severity, prescribe the drug and avoid hospitalizations.”

She added that in Puerto Rico 5,965,979 people have been administered between first and second doses, while 826,655 booster doses and 4,141 third doses have been administered to immunocompromised patients.

“With the arrival of the omicron variant we noticed how many people responsibly went to the vaccination centers to look for the booster doses,” Mellado López said, noting that 4,449 monoclonal antibody treatments have been administered on the island since they became available. “As I have mentioned on other occasions, this stage that we are in should not be optional. We are heading in the right direction to slow the spread. We have to unite to stop this wave of infections.”

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