Pfizer's Covid pills to arrive in country next week

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Pfizer's Covid pills to arrive in country next week

Medical staff members are pictured at a hospital in Namdong District in Incheon on Tuesday. [JANG JIN-YOUNG]

Medical staff members are pictured at a hospital in Namdong District in Incheon on Tuesday. [JANG JIN-YOUNG]

 
Pfizer antiviral pills to treat Covid-19 will be arriving in the country next week, the Health Ministry announced Friday.
 
“We expect them to arrive in the country next week, though we cannot reveal the specific amount,” said Lee Gi-il, a senior official of the Ministry of Health and Welfare in a press briefing on Friday.
 
Korea as of Thursday had bought Pfizer’s oral treatment for Covid-19, Paxlovid, and Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD)’s oral treatment Molnupiravir to together cover 1,004,000 people. Pfizer’s Paxlovid makes up 762,000 of those treatments.
 
Paxlovid is a combination of Pfizer’s investigational antiviral Nirmatrelvir tablets and a low dose of ritonavir, an antiretroviral medication traditionally used to treat H.I.V.
 
The treatment disrupts the replication of the Covid-19 virus in the body by binding to an enzyme crucial to the coronavirus’ function and reproduction.
 
The oral antiviral treatment is considered a game changer because it doesn’t need to be administered with an injection and can be consumed at home, according to the prescription.
 
Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety granted emergency authorization of the treatment last month.  
 
Korea has been in its fourth and largest wave of the Covid-19 pandemic since mid-July, with the daily cases of infection most recently peaking over 7,000 last month.
 
Korea added 3,717 new cases as of midnight Thursday, of which 188 were imported, bringing the total caseload to 657,508, according to the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA).
 
Of the local cases, 1,224 were based in Gyeonggi, 979 in Seoul and 204 in Busan.
 
A total of 839 patients were in critical condition. Fourty-five patients died Thursday, bringing the total deaths to 5,932, with a 0.9 percent death rate.
 
The patients in critical condition had hovered around 1,000 for weeks from late-December to Jan. 3, according to the Health Ministry.
 
“In order to go back to normal, it is necessary to further accelerate the current rate of decline in infection counts and the number of critically ill patients,” Lee said. “There are quite a few people who have not yet received the vaccine, including booster shots. Please get vaccinated as soon as possible. In particular, for those who have not been vaccinated, we ask you to refrain from going out in crowded public places.”
 
As of Thursday, 83.5 percent of the population were fully vaccinated and 39.1 percent had received their booster shots, according to the KDCA.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]
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