March 30, 2022 — President Joe Biden on Wednesday unveiled a federal website that promises a “one-stop shop” for free masks and COVID-19 tests, vaccines and treatments.
The website, covid.gov, also includes a list of pharmacies that will be part of the new “test to treat” program.
“You will also be able to find our new testing sites to process,” Biden said at a press conference. “These are pharmacies and other places in your neighborhood where you can get tested, and if you test positive, you can get lifesaving treatments in one stop.”
Shortly after his remarks, he received a second booster of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The FDA and CDC on Tuesday authorized the fourth dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for Americans over 50 and people over 18 who meet specific conditions.
For Americans looking for a vaccine or booster, covid.gov offers a link to vaccines.gov, where you can go to find a local vaccination center. The public can also use covid.gov to order free tests for home delivery (users are redirected to covidtests.gov) and to find free masks, via a link to a CDC webpage.
You can search covid.gov by address or zip code to find nearby pharmacies, federally licensed community health centers, Indian Health Services sites, or Veterans Affairs (VA) clinics that offer testing services to process.
Throughout the pandemic, it’s been difficult to find a source to help navigate everything someone might need to fight COVID, says Jen Kates, PhD, senior vice president and chief health officer worldwide for the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Covid.gov “is a good step forward in bringing everything together under one internet roof,” she says. A one-stop shop will “facilitate access”.
As states, counties and cities begin to shut down their own government-funded programs, being able to easily find sites for COVID-related services may become more important, Kates says.
Some states and localities have closed sites due to a drop in demand and the number of cases. States also fear they may not be able to continue if federal money to reimburse tests, vaccines and treatments dries up.
The White House has warned that supplies could run out if it does not secure at least $22.5 billion in emergency funds to fight the pandemic. Congress has yet to agree on whether or not to approve this request.
In the meantime, the White House has cut monoclonal antibody shipments to states by a third, and Biden has said supplies will run out by the end of May.
The president also noted that the government would not have enough vaccines on hand this fall to give every American a second booster shot, although he said there was enough for those over 50. and immunocompromised people.
“Congress, we need to secure additional supply now,” Biden said. “We can’t wait to find ourselves in the midst of another push to act. It will be too late.
Challenges from test to treatment
The president announced the test-to-treat initiative in his State of the Union address on March 2. The idea is that people who test positive for COVID-19 at a pharmacy or health clinic would be eligible to receive, immediately and free of charge, one of two FDA-cleared antiviral pills – Pfizer’s Paxlovid or molnupiravir. from Merck. Both must be taken within 5 days of the onset of symptoms to prevent serious illness.
Biden said 2,000 locations across the United States will now offer the test to treat, along with 240 federally qualified community health centers, Indian health service sites, VA health clinics and more than 60 facilities. of medical treatment from the Ministry of Defence.
Kates says the test-to-treat concept is important, but “the execution is going to be tough.” But “we know that as soon as you get a diagnosis, the sooner you start treatment, the better.”
She says COVID-related supply issues with tests, vaccines and especially treatments like Paxlovid will create challenges. And pharmacists’ ability to treat patients could be limited in some states by laws that govern the practice of medicine.
Indeed, groups of physicians have objected to pharmacists being able to dispense a drug directly to a patient, due to the possibility of side effects. Pharmacists also aren’t likely to know a person’s full medical history, groups such as the American Medical Association have said.
And pharmacies are concerned that the program could only be implemented by stores with on-site clinics, which would limit the type and number of pharmacies that can participate.
Most of the test-to-treat pharmacies listed on covid.gov appear to be large chains, such as CVS and Walgreens, or supermarket-affiliated pharmacies, although there also appear to be independent stores in some areas.
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