On anniversary of vaccine's arrival in Tampa, Pfizer antiviral shows promise for at-home COVID treatment

One year ago, we watched as a Tampa General Hospital nurse became one of the first people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Now, Pfizer is working to get its new COVID-19 antiviral drug approval from the FDA after clinical trials showed major promise.

The results are some of the most effective trials we've so far for a drug like this.

Clinical trials show Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral pill is at least 89% effective in preventing deaths and hospitalizations in high-risk patients, as long as it’s prescribed and taken by the patient within a few days of their first symptoms, according to the new data released by Pfizer.

If authorized, the drug would be sold under the name Paxlovid and will be meant for people to take at home, every 12 hours for five days -- before they get sick enough to go the hospital.              

Pfizer says lab tests show the pill retains effectiveness against the omicron variant.

RELATED: Pfizer says COVID-19 pill cut hospital, death risk by nearly 90%

As Dr. Michael Teng with the University of South Florida explains, the pill would mainly be for people who can't get the vaccine, perhaps due to a medical reason.

"For people who can't really mount a good immune response to be vaccinated if they get infected, this drug can be given to them. They can stay out of the hospital. And that's really important because a lot of those people are especially vulnerable to severe COVID," Teng said.

Based on how well the trials have gone, Dr. Teng and other experts expect the FDA to move quickly to approve it, considering there are still no oral COVID-19 antiviral drugs approved in the US.

The company says it could have 180,000 courses of the drug ready before the end of the year.