President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the administration is doubling its order for Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pill.
The administration previously ordered 10 million courses of treatment in 2021, with Biden’s latest announcement the U.S. government will have ordered 20 million treatments in total.
The Pfizer pill, Paxlovid, won’t be available immediately, with only 35,000 additional courses due to be delivered this month.
“The United States has more pills than any other country in the world and our supply is going to ramp up over the coming months, as more of these pills are manufactured,” Biden said Tuesday. “Today I’m directing my team to work with Pfizer to double our order from 10 million to 20 million treatment courses to be delivered in the months ahead.”
Biden noted that the first batch of the antiviral pill was shipped out on Christmas Eve and promised more “this week,” though increasing production will still take months. Before the president’s comments, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tweeted that the 20 million treatment courses “will be delivered” by the “end of September.”
Bourla wrote that around 10 million pills have been “accelerated for delivery by the end of June.”
Biden also addressed the ongoing testing issue the U.S. is experiencing, calling it “frustrating” but promised that the government is “making improvements.” The Omicron variant, which is more contagious but has less serious symptoms, sparked long lines and testing shortages around the country ahead of the holidays.
In response to the shortage, the administration said it would be making 500 million tests available for free to Americans who request one.
There are many questions about the administration’s plan, such as how many tests will one household be allowed to order and what specific website the tests will be available through. The plan was not ready to be implemented before the holidays when the U.S. saw many Americans go for testing ahead of travel.
The president pushed vaccines and boosters, saying that vaccinated Americans “are highly protected” against Omicron. He issued a warning to unvaccinated Americans and said “this continues to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
“You can still get COVID, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll become seriously ill,’’ the president said. “If you’re vaccinated and boosted, you are highly protected. Be concerned about Omicron, but don’t be alarmed. And if you’re unvaccinated, you have some reasons to be alarmed. You’ll experience severe illness in many cases.’’
“There’s no excuse for anyone being unvaccinated,” Biden also declared.