11 Facts about Paxlovid – COVID-19 Antiviral Treatment

1. What is Paxlovid?

Paxlovid is a medication, taken at home by mouth, with two antiviral components effective against COVID-19. It can prevent some patients from going to the hospital or dying due to COVID-19. 

One part of the medication, nirmatrelvir, works to stop the virus from invading more cells in your body. The other part, ritonavir, boosts the amount of time each dose of nirmatrelvir works in your body. Together, they make a great duo for fighting your COVID-19 infection.

2. Who can take Paxlovid?

Not everyone should take Paxlovid. 

People who benefit the most from Paxlovid: 

  • Are diagnosed early 
  • Have mild to moderate COVID-19 infection 
  • Are at risk for severe infection 

Several factors can put you at high risk for severe infection, including: 

  • Old age
  • Diabetes
  • Lung disease
  • Obesity

Your primary care provider will see if you would benefit from Paxlovid.

3. Does it matter when I start Paxlovid?

Yes, Paxlovid will help you more the sooner you start it. You must start taking Paxlovid within five days of starting symptoms. Once you are past the five-day point, the virus has had too much of a head start and the medication cannot catch up. 

4. Where can I get Paxlovid?

You must have a prescription from your provider for Paxlovid. Please call your closest University Health clinic for an appointment to see a provider. 

5. How long will I take Paxlovid?

Patients take Paxlovid for five days. This has been shown to be effective. 

6. Can children take Paxlovid?

Yes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved use of Paxlovid in kids who are at least 12 years old and 88 pounds.

7. What should I tell my doctor before I start Paxlovid?

When talking to your doctor about Paxlovid, make sure you tell your doctor about: 

  • Any allergies 
  • If you have liver or kidney disease
  • All medications/supplements you take (especially any birth control pills)

8. What side effects should I be aware of when taking Paxlovid?

Many people have no side effects. Common side effects include change in taste, diarrhea and muscle pain. Rare but serious side effects can happen. Please review these with your doctor.

9. Will Paxlovid prevent me from spreading COVID-19 to others?

No, you may still be contagious while taking Paxlovid. For most people, the best steps are to isolate for at least five days and wear a mask for 10 days. The CDC recommends continuing isolation past five days until you are feeling better and have gone at least 24 hours without using a fever-reducing medication.

10. Does Paxlovid cause a rebound effect?

Some people will experience a brief return to symptoms a few days after their COVID-19 infection. This is known as the rebound effect. Both people who do and do not take Paxlovid can experience it. Current information points to the rebound effect being a normal part of the COVID-19 disease process. 

If you experience COVID-19 rebound, you do not need another course of Paxlovid. However, you should re-isolate and wear a mask for 10 more days.

11. If Paxlovid is available, should I still stay up to date on my COVID-19 vaccines?

Yes, everyone who qualifies for the updated COVID-19 vaccine should receive vaccination at the next opportunity. Preventing a COVID-19 infection with the vaccine is better than risking a potentially severe COVID-19 infection. 


Information can change quickly. Information in this article is accurate as of publication date (Jan. 31, 2024). Ask your primary care provider if Paxlovid is right for you.

Content provided is intended for solely for the purpose of providing general information. Information provided here does not substitute for personal evaluation by a medical professional.

For more information, visit Paxlovid Fact Sheet for Patients and Caregivers and If You Get Sick with COVID-19, Antiviral Treatments Can Protect You Against Severe Illness.

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