First Batch of Pfizer's COVID Pill Arrives in Israel Amid Omicron Wave

The antiviral Paxlovid pills are 'an important addition to our toolbox in fighting the pandemic,' Israel's PM says, as the medication arrives a week after FDA approval

Paxlovid, a Pfizer's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pill, is seen manufactured in Ascoli, Italy, in November.
Paxlovid, a Pfizer's coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pill, is seen manufactured in Ascoli, Italy, in November.Credit: PFIZER/ REUTERS

The first shipment of Pfizer's antiviral COVID pill arrived in Israel on Thursday, which Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said will help the country overcome its current omicron variant wave.

The deal to bring in the Paxlovid pills was negotiated with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla by Bennett and Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz, along with members of his ministry.

"Pfizer's medication has arrived today in Israel, among the first countries in the world [to receive it]," Bennett said. "It is an important addition to our toolbox in fighting the pandemic."

He added, "Just as we were global pioneers in giving the third vaccine and the fourth vaccine, now we are also leaders in giving this medication to Israel's citizens. Thanks to our speedy action, the pills arrived quickly in Israel, and will help us overcome the peak of the omicron wave, which is approaching."

On Sunday, Israel's Health Ministry approved the use of the medication, days after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized Paxlovid for emergency use. Data from Pfizer's clinical trial showed its antiviral regimen was 90 percent effective in preventing hospitalizations and deaths in patients at high risk of severe illness. Recent lab data suggests the drug retains its effectiveness against omicron.

The Pfizer pills, taken with the older antiviral drug ritonavir, are meant to be taken every 12 hours for five days beginning shortly after the onset of symptoms. The agency said it authorized the oral drug for emergency use for the treatment of mild-to-moderate disease in adults and pediatric patients of 12 years of age and older weighing at least 40 kilograms, or about 88 pounds, who are at high risk for progression to severe COVID.

The drug is available by prescription only and should be initiated as soon as possible after diagnosis of COVID and within five days of symptom onset, the FDA said.

Also on Thursday, Israel logged its highest COVID numbers since September; recent data by the Health Ministry showed the country's COVID infections are rising by most metrics as the omicron variant continues to spread.

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