Tested positive? See if you qualify for Paxlovid, and how to get it

Tested positive? See if you qualify for Paxlovid, and how to get it


The state has launched a telehealth program to help people access the COVID therapeutic free of charge, regardless of insurance status.

The antiviral drug Paxlovid is taken for five days. Rachel Wisniewski/The Washington Post

It used to be hard to access at-home treatments for COVID-19, but now you can access it after a quick telehealth appointment, no matter your insurance status.

Paxlovid, an antiviral treatment from Pfizer, has been shown to reduce risk of hospitalization or death by nearly 90% in high-risk adults, if given shortly after the onset of symptoms. 

It is key that a course of Paxlovid is started early, specifically within five days of symptoms starting, so don’t wait after a positive test to see if you get sicker. 

Dr. Shira Doron, the hospital epidemiologist at Tufts Medical Center, told Boston.com in April that the COVID-19 treatments currently authorized are designed to prevent hospitalization and severe illness. 

“The way it works is preventing it from getting worse,” Doron said. “Once you’re getting worse, your immune system is what’s kicking in and going a bit haywire and causing the worse symptoms, and the medications are not for the immune system, they are for the virus. The medications will kill the virus [and] that has to be done before that second phase of the illness sets in.”

Paxlovid is actually a combination of two drugs: nirmatrelvir, which inhibits the virus from replicating, and ritonavir, which boosts levels of antiviral medicines. It can’t undo damage done by a virus, it can only stop it from progressing, which is why it needs to be taken early, according to Yale Medicine.

So, if you end up getting a positive test result, either on an at-home test or a lab test, here’s what you can do.  

Who can get Paxlovid? 

Nearly 40% of Massachusts residents might be eligible for therapeutic treatments for COVID-19, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. 

More specifically, anyone with a risk factor of severe illness is eligible for the five-day course of pills from Pfizer. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has laid out a more comprehensive list of conditions that lead to elevated risk, but here are some of the risk factors, as laid out by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health:

  • Cancer 
  • Chronic lung, liver, heart, or kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Disabilities
  • Immunocompromising conditions
  • Neurologic conditions
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • Stroke
  • Substance use disorders

People over the age of 65 years old are also eligible, according to a Department of Public Health information sheet. 

In order to qualify for the treatment you also have to have a positive COVID-19 test that results in a symptomatic infection that hasn’t yet required hospitalization, according to DPH. The treatment is only available for those over 12 years old who weigh more than about 88 pounds (40 kilograms).

How can you access Paxlovid?

Every day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., telehealth providers are available through state organizations to determine if Paxlovid is the right treatment for you. 

Both the telehealth visit and the prescription are free no matter your insurance status, and are available to people over the age of 18 who have tested positive and are experiencing symptoms, according to the Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Each telehealth visit consists of a short intake survey, followed by a video consultation with a health care clinician, according to the state.

After the telehealth appointment, a prescription for Paxlovid will either be made at your local pharmacy, or the treatment will be mailed overnight for free, according to the state.

The service, which launched earlier this month, is in collaboration with Color Health.

“… Now anyone who gets COVID and has even a single risk factor can and should also avail themselves of one of several highly effective treatments, including two oral antiviral medications, of which there is plentiful supply,” Doron said in the statement from the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

Hospitals and other healthcare providers, including state-funded sites managed by Gothams, also serve as distribution sites for COVID-19 therapeutics. The state maintains both a COVID-19 Therapeutic Look Up Tool and a COVID-19 Therapeutic Locator to help find treatment closest to you.

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