Published in El Pais, 24 November 2021.
The company Pfizer and MSD have developed a tablet that reduces the need for hospitalization and the probability of dying with 89% in case of infection with COVID-19. At first glance this seems like a good development because then people who cannot be vaccinated or who do not create antibodies still have good hope when they become infected. However, at the moment it is not something that can replace the vaccine.
First, a person who is vaccinated is less likely to get sick or less likely to be hospitalized. So with a relatively simple action you are protected. Whereas, with the tablet, you first have to get infected, do a COVID-19 test and take one tablet daily for a week. The great advantage of being vaccinated is that, if you become infected, you are with less viral load and will infect other people, while an unvaccinated person will infect more. This helps managing an epidemic under control or to go slower and more controlled.
Second is the cost. The price of a treatment with the anti-COVID tablet is 700 dollars while the vaccine is between 10-50 dollars. And since the dynamics of COVID-19 tells us that in the end everyone gets infected, the calculation is easy to do and the vaccine in the end is the cheapest.
So if you haven’t been vaccinated yet, this tablet is not an alternative. It is something complementary. In addition, we have to consider that the supply of the tablet may be insufficient if we all depend on it. The same with the capacity in the hospitals. We do not have the beds, intensive care units and in the end all other resources are also limited. The only way not to get into another health crisis is to get vaccinated and obey the basic measures.