New York City is creating the first mobile testing units in the United States that will allow people who test positive for the coronavirus to receive the Paxlovid antiviral treatment immediately and free of charge.
Mayor Eric Adams announced the new program Thursday in Manhattan with Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s Covid-19 response coordinator.
The new “Test to Treat” mobile unit program is part of federal and city efforts to reduce the impact of the virus and prepare for future waves of cases. Health officials want to improve access to antiviral drugs for vulnerable New Yorkers who may not be aware of treatment or do not have a primary care physician or health insurance.
“By getting lifesaving medicine into the hands of New Yorkers minutes after they test positive, we are once again leading the country to quickly provide accessible care to those who need it,” Adams said in a statement. .
President Biden announced a nationwide “Test to Treat” effort in his State of the Union address in March. The federal program relies on hundreds of local pharmacy clinics and community health centers to prescribe antiviral treatments on the spot. No city other than New York has yet used mobile test units for the program.
Starting Thursday, three of the city’s mobile testing units will include a clinician who can prescribe antiviral drugs to eligible people. The units will be installed outside of local pharmacies which will be able to fill these prescriptions immediately. Venues will be in the Inwood section of Manhattan, South Ozone Park in Queens and in the East Bronx – any neighborhoods away from downtown or midtown Manhattan that have many working-class residents.
The number of mobile sites that can offer the prescription will increase to more than 30 by the end of July, city officials said, adding that later this summer the city will begin offering antiviral drugs directly to all 30 units. mobiles, rather than through a nearby establishment. pharmacy. The city already offers free home delivery of antiviral treatments.
Dr Ted Long, executive director of the city’s Test & Trace Corps, said the first patient at the new mobile testing site outside Inwood Pharmacy this week was a woman who did not have a cellphone. and who had recently been exposed to the virus. She tested positive and left the pharmacy with Paxlovid.
“This effort is about fairness,” he said.
Dr Jha said in an interview that there has been a significant increase in the use of Paxlovid across the country over the past three months and that 240,000 new prescriptions for the treatment were reported last week, the highest weekly total to date. But he said people who tested positive in poorer communities had not taken advantage of antiviral treatments as often as people in wealthier communities.
“I love this idea,” he said of the mobile New York program. “You can go to people where they are. I expect it to go very well and it will be a great model for the rest of the country to follow.