Health Advice



COVID-19 treatments are not vaccine replacements. Here's why

Ben Sessoms, The News & Observer on

Published in Health & Fitness

With the pharmaceutical company Merck applying in October for emergency authorization of its antiviral pill treatment against COVID-19, North Carolina and the rest of the country soon may see its first widely accessible treatment against the disease.

And Merck’s drug, known as molnupiravir, is promising. It can cut someone’s chance of hospitalization in half, the company says, just by taking pills from a local pharmacy for a few days.

But health experts told The News & Observer that treatments are no replacement for the safe, effective prevention we already have against the coronavirus: the COVID-19 vaccines.

“I’d rather prevent a fire than put out a fire,” said Dr. David Wohl, infectious disease expert at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Here’s why you should get vaccinated, if you haven’t done so already, instead of waiting for treatments.

Vaccines keep people out of the hospital


Molnupiravir, as an oral pill, is an accessible and easy way to treat COVID-positive patients.

And it could keep people out of the hospital. Preliminary data suggests Merck’s pill could reduce the chance of hospitalization by 50%.

But it’s not nearly as good as the vaccines.

A September study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the vaccines from Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson were, respectively, 93%, 88% and 71% effective in preventing hospitalization.


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