Biden Doubles Order Of COVID Antiviral Pill, Warns Unvaccinated Americans In Wake Of Omicron

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Shelby Talcott Senior White House Correspondent
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President Joe Biden announced Tuesday that the administration is doubling its order for Pfizer’s COVID-19 antiviral pill.

The administration previously put in an order for 10 million treatment courses in 2021, and Biden’s latest announcement means the U.S. government will have ordered 20 million pills in total. The Pfizer pill, Paxlovid, won’t be available immediately, with just 35,000 additional courses due to be delivered this month, The New York Times reported.

“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 at the start of a meeting with his COVID-19 team. “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 ramping up production will likely 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 problem in the U.S., calling it “frustrating” but promising that the government is “making improvements.” The Omicron variant, which is believed to be more transmissible but have less serious symptoms, sparked long lines and testing shortages around the country ahead of the holidays.

In response, the administration said it would be making 500 million tests available for free to Americans who request one.

Many questions remain surrounding the administration’s plan, including how many tests one household can order and what specific website the tests will be available through. The plan also was not able 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.