THOUSANDS of Brits who are most likely to be hospitalised with Covid can get NHS treatment at home.
The cutting-edge pills improve symptoms “within hours”, and have already helped hundreds of patients fend off the bug.
The game-changing pills have helped thousands of people recover at home from Covid
Paxlovid was found in trials to slash hospitalisation and deaths by 88 per cent, and has been given to more than 6,000 patients already – over 1,400 in the last seven days alone.
Omicron is much milder than previous strains, with the chance of hospitalisation much lower.
However for some vulnerable people the risk of more severe illness is still higher, so getting extra help to beat the virus at home is on offer.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, said: “It’s fantastic that since launching the latest antiviral treatment Paxlovid just over a month ago, thousands of our most vulnerable patients have already had access to this latest cutting-edge, life-saving treatment.
“Antivirals are another weapon in our arsenal to reduce hospital admissions and fatalities amongst patients at highest risk of becoming seriously ill from Covid-19 and needing hospitalisation — each and every person treated with the new drugs is testament to how the NHS is doing everything possible to protect those who are at most risk.
“Getting vaccinated is still the best way to protect you and your loved ones from covid, and to date, our world leading vaccination programme has delivered over 119 million doses — including more than 32 million boosters — and I would urge anyone who hasn’t yet been jabbed to come forward for your first, second or booster jab as soon as possible.”
One of the 32,000 patients to have benefitted is Helen West, 56, from Walderslade, Kent, who was offered Paxlovid.
Helen has ankylosing spondylitis, a rare long-term condition where the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed, painful and stiff.
She has to take medication that suppresses her immune system.
Helen, who has two grown-up children, said: “The process was so quick and efficient. Within six hours of taking the first tablet I felt a very slight improvement.
“After four days, I was back to work. Covid hit me hard but Paxlovid really made a positive difference to my recovery.”
The antiviral treatment is being used to treat those identified to be at the highest risk of becoming seriously ill with Covid.
The treatment stops the virus multiplying in cells and therefore prevents the virus multiplying in the body, helping patients to fight the infection and get better, faster.
Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We have secured more antivirals per head than any other country in Europe – almost five million doses for NHS patients.
“Both of our groundbreaking antivirals – molnupiravir and Paxlovid – are available to those most vulnerable to the virus directly through the NHS, and it’s fantastic to see 32,000 patients reaping the benefits.
Are you eligable?
You’re eligible for COVID-19 treatments if all of the following apply:
- you’re aged 12 or over
- you’re at highest risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19
- you have symptoms of COVID-19
- you have tested positive for COVID-19
You may be at highest risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19 if you have:
- Down’s syndrome
- sickle cell disease
- HIV or AIDS
- chronic kidney disease (CKD) stage 4 or 5
- certain types of cancer
- had certain types of chemotherapy in the last 12 months
- had radiotherapy in the last 6 months
- had an organ transplant
- a severe liver condition (such as cirrhosis)
- a rare condition affecting the brain or nerves (multiple sclerosis, motor neurone disease, Huntington’s disease or myasthenia gravis)
- certain autoimmune or inflammatory conditions (such as rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease)
- a condition or treatment that makes you more likely to get infections
“For anyone not in this high-risk group, if you’re aged 50 and over or 18 to 49 with an underlying health condition and test positive, you can sign up to the PANORAMIC study to potentially access this treatment too.”
Free lateral flow tests for most members of the public ended on Friday, April 1 except for the over-75s and over-12s with weakened immune systems.
People who are eligible for Paxlovid will be sent the tests to keep at home in case they develop symptoms.
It comes as more than 120 million Covid jabs have been dished out be the NHS.
Steve Russell, NHS National Director for Vaccinations said: “I am incredibly proud of the phenomenal NHS vaccination programme, and want to thank all NHS staff and volunteers who have helped make this life-saving programme happen.
“The vaccine continues to be our best protection against serious illness from Covid, so I encourage anybody who is yet to come in for a top-up or who hasn’t yet been vaccinated at all, to come forward and get the best protection on offer against Covid-19”.
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