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Guide To Latest COVID-19 Treatments And Drugs

Guide To Latest COVID-19 Treatments And Drugs

Since the start of the pandemic, the global medical community has been working on vaccines and drug treatments for COVID-19, and they’ve made significant advances against the disease. Several vaccine and treatment options are available now. Among healthcare providers and the public, understanding is replacing fear, and there’s an increasing expectation that we’ll soon be able to manage COVID-19 much more like influenza, and less like a public health emergency.

But it’s been a costly struggle to get to this point. According to the World Health Organization, we’ve recently exceeded 485 million total cases and 6.1 million deaths globally due to COVID-19. Fortunately, several positive factors now support an optimistic outlook. One is that in New Jersey, our full vaccination rate is relatively high at 74.5%, and our daily case rate has dropped from 37,000 on January 5, 2022, to under 1,000 per day currently.

The Infectious disease specialists at ID Care understand COVID-19 treatment options and are an important source of current information and insight as we move into this more hopeful phase of the pandemic. In this blog, Dr. Ellen Hirsh provides a guide to the latest FDA-authorized COVID-19 treatments and drugs to address every stage of the disease, from vaccines and antiviral medications to long COVID support groups:

  1. Pre-exposure prophylaxis is for uninfected people who have not been exposed to COVID-19.
  2. Post-exposure prophylaxis is for uninfected high-risk individuals who have been exposed, to prevent the virus from reproducing and causing symptoms.
  3. Early infection treatment is for the first 5-7 days of the disease, targeting the virus when it is present and active.
  4. Later infection treatment focuses on the complications remaining after the virus has left the body, including those who experience long COVID, or post-COVID conditions.

Along with updates on virus variants, herd immunity, and testing recommendations, this information can help you make the best healthcare decisions to protect yourself and your loved ones as we enter year three of life with COVID-19.

COVID-19 Treatments and Drugs

Are there FDA-authorized drugs to treat COVID-19 infection? The answer is yes. Several have emergency use authorization (EUA), which represent the FDA’s permission to expedite the availability and use of a drug before its full FDA review process is completed, and only where the known and potential benefits are greater than the potential risks. This is for cases where the drug shows a high likelihood of safety and effectiveness, and an emergency such as a pandemic means that waiting for the usual process to run its course would be too costly in lives. Emergency use authorization is considered very carefully by the FDA and is not applied to experimental or poorly understood drugs.

Generally, the treatment approach and medicines used for COVID-19 are classified by 1 of 4 stages of the disease’s progression:

1. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis

Vaccines & Boosters

Pre-exposure prophylaxis is preventative treatment, and for most people, the first and most important step is simply vaccination. Typically, your first vaccine shots are called primary immunizations, or a primary series. After some months, later shots are called boosters. The primary series will generate immunity about two weeks after your last dose. Boosters work without delay because your body has already been taught to make these specific antibodies.

“Anybody with a normally functioning immune system who can get vaccinated, should get vaccinated against COVID-19” advises Dr. Hirsh, adding that “it’s the best preventative available, and it’s been used safely in many millions of people worldwide.”

Vaccine and booster recommendations vary by age and risk groups, so the term fully vaccinated means different things for different people. Dr. Hirsh warns that “to avoid confusion, we are now using the term up to date, which means you’ve received all the vaccine and booster shots currently recommended specifically for you.”

Vaccine and Booster Recommendations

Note: only Pfizer is FDA-approved for use in children under 18 — adults may choose Moderna or Pfizer:

  • Children under age 12 should get 2 primary vaccine doses 3 weeks apart, with no booster.
  • Children aged 12 to 17 should get a 2-dose primary series, 3-8 weeks apart, followed by a booster 5 months later.
  • Adults aged 18 to 50 should get a 2-dose primary series (Pfizer is given 3-8 weeks apart and Moderna is given 4-8 weeks apart. The second dose should be spaced out as much as possible to decrease risk and increase efficacy.), followed by a booster in 5 months.
  • People with compromised immune systems should get a 3-dose primary series, followed by booster shots.
  • Now everyone 50 and over is eligible for a fourth shot if they so desire.

The second method of pre-exposure prophylaxis is administration of a drug called Evusheld, a 2-shot preventative series of 2 different monoclonal antibodies for people in high-risk groups whose immune systems can’t respond or tolerate the vaccine. Essentially, it is injecting antibodies directly instead of having the vaccine spur antibody production, with a similar protective effect.

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