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LONDON: Britain will start rolling out Pfizer's COVID-19 pill to vulnerable people next month, the health ministry said on Friday, targeting the treatment at people with compromised immune systems for whom the vaccine can be less effective.

The health ministry said that Pfizer's antiviral treatment Paxlovid, a combination of Pfizer's pill with an older antiviral ritonavir, will be made available to thousands of people from Feb. 10.

"It is fantastic news that this new treatment, the latest cutting-edge drug that the NHS is rolling out through new COVID-19 medicine delivery units, will now be available to help those at highest risk of COVID-19," National Health Service medical director Stephen Powis said.

Britain approves Pfizer's antiviral COVID-19 pill

"Trials have shown it can reduce hospitalisation and risk of death by 88%, meaning we'll be in the best position to save thousands of lives."

Britain has ordered 2.75 million courses of Paxlovid, and the government said that it would set out further details on access to the treatment soon but that people who are immunocompromised, cancer patients or those with Down's Syndrome could be able to access it directly.

Merck's COVID-19 pill active against Omicron in lab studies

It is the second antiviral being rolled out in Britain after molnupiravir, a pill made by Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics which is being deployed to patients through the Panoramic trial.

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