Officials say it can reduce the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 by 90%. And, it could reduce hospitalization by 50%.
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- With Christmas just a few days away, experts suggest having a plan in place in case you get COVID-19. State public health officials recommend getting Paxlovid if you test positive since it is readily available in California.
"I got it last year. Out of the blue. I had no idea how we got it," said Treina de la Fuente. She and her mother Kari both got sick (COVID-19) about the same time.
"Pains. Aches. Everything. Yeah," said Treina who was out of work for more than two weeks."(My symptoms) got pretty severe. I know I got to point I could barely breathe."
With so many people in the hospital now because of the flu, RSV, or COVID, California public health officials want you to know if you get COVID-19, you should ask about getting the Paxlovid treatment.
Public health officials say it can reduce the risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 by 90%. And, it could reduce hospitalization by 50%.
"There is data to suggest that there are many more people that could benefit from this medication that are actually using it. And what we are trying to do is make sure people are aware of how to access it, why it could be beneficial," said Dr. Susan Philp with SF Public Health.
Doctors say Paxlovid is under-prescribed. They say more people could actually be eligible for it because of health risks like physical inactivity, obesity, smoking, or health conditions like depression, asthma, or diabetes.
The Paxlovid treatment is free.
Health experts say it's a game changer and it's helping people recover more quickly.
"It does statistically decrease the number of days that people feel ill," said Dr. Philip. "It seems to decrease the risk of long COVID as well."
Previously, the federal government recommended Paxlovid only for COVID patients age 50 and over, or people with certain conditions.
California public health authorities say it is now available to more people, including those age 12 and over with certain conditions.
"I think what the state is saying and what we are trying to amplify in SF is, there are many more people who could benefit from Paxlovid in San Francisco than may think that it's for them. We want people to reach out and have that conversation with a provider early on because it should be taken within five days for maximum benefit," said Dr. Philip.
Kari de la Fuente knows that Paxlovid makes a big difference.
"Having had a friend have COVID--she took the Paxlovid. A week into it, she's fine," said Kari.
Kari wishes she had the same option sooner.
"I wish I had it when I had my COVID. I think it would have helped out a lot with the not being able to breathe," said Kari. "Why not give it to everyone. Everyone deserves a chance to get over."
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