President Joe Biden unveils the plan during his State of the Union speech.
In touting his administration's accomplishments in the battle against COVID-19, President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced an initiative to immediately treat people who test positive and is making more free tests available.
"Thanks to the progress we have made this past year, COVID-19 need no longer control our lives. I know some are talking about 'living with COVID-19.' But tonight, I say that we will never just accept living with COVID-19," Biden said during his first State of the Union address.
Reiterating the importance of vaccines and treatments, Biden announced the launch of a "Test to Treat" initiative, which allows people who test positive for the virus at a pharmacy to immediately receive Pfizer's antiviral pills at no cost.
Paxlovid, Pfizer's antiviral treatment, was granted emergency use authorization by the US Food and Drug Administration in December. Pfizer has said that Paxlovid reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% if administered within three days of symptoms.
Many doctors and scientists hope that the Pfizer pill will change the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and save significant numbers of lives. However, the pill will not stop transmission COVID-19, and some are concerned that a new pill might actually hurt COVID-19 vaccination and mitigation efforts.
While COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective, millions of Americans are still not vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 65% of the US population is fully vaccinated.
Biden said Pfizer is working to deliver 1 million pills this month and more than 2 million in the next month. He also said they're "working hard" to get vaccines authorized for children under the age of 5.
The president also announced that Americans will be able to order free COVID-19 tests from Covidtests.gov next week. He also called on Congress to provide funding for additional stockpiles of tests, masks and pills.
"I cannot promise a new variant won't come," he said. "But I can promise you we'll do everything within our power to be ready if it does."