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Published on November 22, 2022

paxlovid pill

COVID Treatments: What Works as the Virus Changes

COVID-19 is still a serious threat to our health. Here are reminders on how to keep yourself – and those you love – as secure as possible.

“The research continues, and it keeps showing us the facts,” said David Basel, MD, Vice President of Clinical Quality for Avera Medical Group.

One fact is priority: We still have hospitalizations – especially with certain populations.

Basel said people who are immune suppressed, very young or older are at the greatest risk for COVID-19 hospitalizations. “The protection of this group remains vital,” he said. “We still have severe cases and we still have deaths.”

COVID Treatments Proven to Work

Effective treatment is available for people who test positive for COVID-19 to help avoid hospitalizations and deaths. Primarily, this involves antiviral drugs.

Paxlovid is an oral antiviral medication that combines two drugs – nirmatrelvir and ritonavir. This drug inhibits a COVID protein to stop the virus from replicating. Used in a timely fashion (within five days of developing symptoms), it can keep a patient from getting admitted. Not everyone who gets COVID needs treatment. Ask your doctor if you are concerned about getting a severe case.

Another effective option doctors may recommend in or out of the hospital is remdesivir, which is an IV antiviral. Antivirals are recommended first-line treatments, but for some patients, medical reasons mean antiviral medications are not a good choice. In those cases, a clinician may consider a monoclonal antibody treatment.

Most importantly, if you are sick and think it may be COVID, stay home to avoid sharing the illness. Home tests can help you identify COVID.

Prevention Against Changing COVID Variants

Prevention remains the best medicine – with COVID and many other illnesses. “The best prevention we have is vaccination,” Basel said. Since the vaccine is available to everyone 6 months and older, getting the jab is something you can do for your health, your loved ones and your community.

Viruses mutate quickly. Each of us needs a higher level of immunity to keep the virus at bay. If you only get a mild case of COVID, or get it and don’t notice symptoms at all, that’s your immune system kicking in to keep you healthier.

“Natural immunity only lasts a few months – so your risk might pop back up after a few weeks,” Basel said. That’s why getting vaccinated with recommended boosters, specifically the bivalent booster for people ages 5 and older can prevent the old and new strains remains the gold standard, Basel added.

Basel said it’s fine to get vaccinated for the flu and COVID-19 at the same appointment.

“You can get the bivalent vaccine along with any other shot – be it flu or shingles – it’s OK,” he added. “You don’t have to wait.”

Medical professionals earlier had encouraged a delay between vaccines earlier in the COVID-19 era to avoid any reactions, however, such reactions prove to be quite rare or mild.

"We recommend staying up to date with boosters," he said. "It's something that makes a difference."

Get answers with a family doctor who can make sure you and your loved ones stay safe.

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