Dispensing of Oral Antiviral Drugs for Treatment of COVID-19 by Zip Code-Level Social Vulnerability - United States, December 23, 2021-May 21, 2022

MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2022 Jun 24;71(25):825-829. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm7125e1.


The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and exacerbated long-standing inequities in the social determinants of health (1-3). Ensuring equitable access to effective COVID-19 therapies is essential to reducing health disparities. Molnupiravir (Lagevrio) and nirmatrelvir/ritonavir (Paxlovid) are oral antiviral agents effective at preventing hospitalization and death in patients with mild to moderate COVID-19 who are at high risk* for progression to severe COVID-19 when initiated within 5 days of symptom onset. These medications received Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in December 2021 and were made available at no cost to recipients through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on December 23, 2021. Beginning March 7, 2022, a series of strategies was implemented to expand COVID-19 oral antiviral access, including the launch of the Test to Treat initiative.§ Data from December 23, 2021-May 21, 2022, were analyzed to describe oral antiviral prescription dispensing overall and by week, stratified by zip code social vulnerability. Zip codes represented areas classified as low, medium, or high social vulnerability; approximately 20% of U.S. residents live in low-, 31% in medium-, and 49% in high-social vulnerability zip codes. During December 23, 2021-May 21, 2022, a total of 1,076,762 oral antiviral prescriptions were dispensed (Lagevrio = 248,838; Paxlovid = 827,924). Most (70.3%) oral antivirals were dispensed during March 7-May 21, 2022. During March 6, 2022-May 21, 2022, the number of oral antivirals dispensed per 100,000 population increased from 3.3 to 77.4 in low-, from 4.5 to 70.0 in medium-, and from 7.8 to 35.7 in high-vulnerability zip codes. The number of oral antivirals dispensed rose substantially during the overall study period, coincident with the onset of initiatives to increase access. However, by the end of the study period, dispensing rates in high-vulnerability zip codes were approximately one half the rates in medium- and low-vulnerability zip codes. Additional public health, regulatory, and policy efforts might help decrease barriers to oral antiviral access, particularly in communities with high social vulnerability.

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • COVID-19 Drug Treatment*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Social Vulnerability
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Antiviral Agents