Two new COVID-19 treatments in pill form have recently hit the streets, but how do they work, and how can you get them? Both pills, Molnupiravir from Merck and Paxlovid from Pfizer, need to be started in patients right away to be helpful in their cause of reducing hospitalizations or deaths from the coronavirus, within five days of the beginning of symptoms. Pfizer’s Paxlovid was found to be overall more effective in its trials. However, the pills aren’t meant for just anyone who tests positive. While the drugs are approved for those aged 12 and up, the pills are aimed at older and sickly populations, those more susceptible to hospitalization or death at the hands of COVID-19.

While the latest research shows that the new Omicron variant has less severe symptoms than the previous Delta variant, it also has a shortened incubation period, resulting in those symptoms appearing quicker than the prior variants. Typical symptoms of Omicron include fatigue, cough, sore throat, and other symptoms typical to a common cold, making the spread of the variant quicker across the globe.

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While vaccine and booster shots help lessen the illness in the Omicron variant, overall research has found that the vaccine offers less protection against catching Omicron than it did against earlier variants. However, boosters are still highly recommended to prevent hospitalization and death from the variant.

For those not old enough to receive the COVID-19 vaccine or the pill treatments, the outlook is getting bleaker, with one Chicago hospital seeing four times the number of children as patients, half of which were under the age of five, the current minimum age for the vaccine.

The CDC released the latest vaccination data on Monday, finding that of the 61.8 percent of Americans considered “fully vaccinated” at two shots, only 35.2 percent of the fully vaccinated had gotten their (third) booster shot. All the while, Israel looks to introduce a secondary booster, or fourth shot, for at-risk populations in their country.

Meanwhile, rising COVID-19 cases grounded hundreds of holiday flights across the U.S. due to the resulting labor shortage, causing the U.S.’s infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci, to ask for a vaccine mandate on all flights. As labor shortages plague the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided to shorten the required isolation period by half to just five days if showing no symptoms in a move to aid businesses across the country facing a lack of healthy workers.

For the latest information on COVID-19, be sure to visit the CDC website at CDC.gov.

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