Eligible people in New York City who test positive for coronavirus will be given free prescriptions — on-site and within minutes — for medication to treat COVID-19, under a pilot program announced Thursday by Mayor Eric Adams.
There is no residency requirement, according to Adams spokeswoman Kate Smart — meaning Long Islanders who are in the city for work or any other reason are eligible.
The program — called Test to Treat — is expected to expand to more than 30 mobile sites through July, the city said in a news release.
It’s the nation’s first such program to combine a mobile test site with the near-instantaneous prescription of the medication, Paxlovid, an antiviral from Pfizer, that has been shown to help high-risk patients keep from getting so sick that they would need to be hospitalized. It’s been shown to reduce, by 89%, the risk of hospitalization and death.
Those who are 12 and older who test positive and have symptoms that started within the last seven days are eligible to get the drug, according to guidelines provided by city Health Department spokesman Patrick Gallahue.
Adams’ announcement was made in Manhattan's Inwood neighborhood alongside Dr. Ashish Jha, President Joe Biden’s COVID czar.
“We have seen over the last two months a huge increase in the use of Paxlovid, and I think that’s making a major difference in keeping our hospitalizations low, keeping deaths low,” he said. He said the use of the drug in certain minority and other neighborhoods “is not as good as it needs to be.”
“We have as a nation a real equity challenge in front of us,” Jha said, and the city’s program is a step to address it.
Asked whether it’s a best practice to triage medications like Paxlovid using race as a factor, which certain jurisdictions, including New York, began doing (a December state Health Department memo gave people of color priority over whites, all else being equal), Jha said: “I think different jurisdictions, in terms of targeting where they’re gonna make sure that Paxlovid is more easily accessible, what tools you’re gonna use — different jurisdictions are gonna take different approaches on this.”
He added: “We still have a virus out there that’s killing a lot of Americans. We should be doing everything we can to make sure every American who’s even remotely eligible gets it, and we should absolutely be making sure that people who have been disproportionately harmed by this virus have easy access to Paxlovid.”
The initial sites are: Inwood Pharmacy, 4915 Broadway, Manhattan; Burke Avenue Pharmacy, 759 Burke Ave., the Bronx; and Rex Pharmacy, 119-01 Rockaway Blvd., in the South Ozone Park section of Queens.