SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Some local pharmacies are set to receive the latest weapon in the fight against COVID-19.
The Georgia Department of Health is allocating shipments of both Pfizer and Meck’s antiviral oral treatments to four pharmacies in the Coastal Health District.
Georgetown Drug Company in Savannah is the only pharmacy in Chatham County to be part of this first allocation. Dr. Neal Hollis, the pharmacy’s owner, said they are expecting the shipment on Tuesday.
While Hollis said he doesn’t know exactly how many pills they’ll get, he’s expecting a large interest from the community.
“I think it’s a really big step, not only for us as a pharmacy but us as a community,” Hollis said. “Especially for those who are high-risk that are able to get this medication, it’s gonna be kind of a breath of fresh air for those who still may be very worried about what this can do.”
The state health department explained these initial allocations will be made available to federal pharmacies including Walmart, Walgreens and Good Neighbor Pharmacy group, a small network of independent pharmacies – including Georgetown Drug Company.
You do need a prescription to get the treatment, which is under emergency use authorization. Officials said it’s recommended for those at-risk and should be administered within five days of experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, the state health department said.
Healthcare workers are hopeful the new treatment will ease the strain on hospitals.
“This therapy will be very similar to Tamiflu, like we would take for influenza, but actually with better data than Tamiflu has” said Dr. Stephen Thacker, associate chief medical officer at Memorial Health. “This product, based on what we know right now, is much more effective at keeping you out of the hospital and improving your illness course if you get COVID-19.”
Health experts estimate the antiviral pill is 90% effective at preventing hospitalizations, but said vaccines remain the best preventative measure.
The new treatment comes as the demand for testing increases with the spread of the Omicron variant. Georgetown Drug Company sold out of at-home tests just days after receiving them.
“Over the past couple weeks, we’ve seen a huge increase in testing – rapid tests and PCR tests,” Hollis said. “The positives have been coming in more often than we’ve seen in the past couple months.”
Ultimately, Hollis hopes the new treatment will help slow the virus’ spread in the community.
“We’re doing everything we can to help them, not to hurt them,” he said. “I think with these new oral treatments coming out, I think it’s a great thing for them to put their trust in and allow them to get better.”
Here are the other locations within the Coastal Health District getting the treatment:
- Walgreens on Hwy. 17 in Richmond Hill
- Coastal Drug Company in Midway
- Walmart on Altama Connector in Brunswick
The state health department said this first allocation from the federal government is limited, but they anticipate adding more shipments in the coming weeks as the treatment becomes more available.