Who Can Take Paxlovid?

paxlovid photo composite

Verywell Health / Michela Buttignol

Key Takeaways

  • Paxlovid is an antiviral medication that can help shorten the course of illness with COVID-19 and prevent serious complications.
  • There are defined parameters for who is eligible for the medication, and it shouldn't be used to treat severe COVID.
  • Experts recommend calling your doctor if you're unsure if you qualify.

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no specific treatments for people who contracted the virus. Now, there are several options, and one of the most popular treatments is Paxlovid.

The oral medication is authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat mild to moderate COVID. It's intended to decrease the intensity and duration of symptoms.

Right now, Paxlovid can only be used in people at risk of severe disease, hospitalization, and death.

President Joe Biden and Anthony Fauci, MD, chief medical advisor to the president, have been vocal about their recent use of the drug. But Paxlovid isn’t available to everyone, and it does require a prescription before you can take it.

Who can take Paxlovid, exactly, and why are restrictions in place? Here’s what you need to know.


According to the FDA, Paxlovid is administered as three tablets (two tablets of nirmatrelvir and one tablet of ritonavir) taken together orally twice daily for five days. The total regimen consists of 30 tablets, and is not authorized for use beyond five consecutive days. 

Who Is Eligible to Take Paxlovid?

There are specific guidelines in place for who is eligible to take Paxlovid. In order for someone to be eligible to take the medication, they must meet the following criteria:

  • Be an adult or child who is at least 12 years old and weighs at least 88 pounds
  • Have a positive COVID-19 test
  • Be at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization and death

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), conditions and factors that may place someone at high risk for severe COVID include, but are not limited to:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Disabilities
  • Heart conditions
  • HIV
  • Immunocompromised state
  • Mental health conditions
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Smoking
  • Organ transplant recipient
  • Stroke
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Tuberculosis

Patients with severe liver or kidney disease are explicitly not eligible to take Paxlovid.

Why Is Paxlovid Eligibility So Narrow?

Part of the reason why Paxlovid seems so restricted is because it will only benefit people at high-risk of severe disease.

"It does not help people with low risk for severe disease," Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Verywell.

The clinical trial for Paxlovid even required that study participants have at least one characteristic or coexisting condition associated with high risk of progressing to severe COVID.

Paxlovid can also interact with a long list of medications, which is why not everyone can take it.

How to Get Paxlovid

Paxlovid is only available by prescription.

The FDA recently authorized pharmacists—not just physicians—to prescribe Paxlovid to patients who are eligible for the medication and test positive for COVID-19.

To receive a prescription from a pharmacist, patients will need to supply electronic or printed health records that include the most recent reports of laboratory blood work for the pharmacist to review for kidney or liver problems. You could also connect your pharmacist with your healthcare provider, where they could get this information.

If you have COVID-19 and you’re at risk for severe illness, talk to your doctor, if you have one, or speak to your local pharmacist. They should be able to help guide you from there.

What This Means For You

Just because you test positive for COVID-19 doesn't mean you will need to take any sort of treatment. If you are eligible for Paxlovid, you will need a prescription to get it.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.


5 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Emergency use authorization (EUA) of Paxlovid for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19: People with certain medical conditions.

  3. Hammond J, Leister-Tebbe H, Gardner A, et al. Oral nirmatrelvir for high-risk, nonhospitalized adults with COVID-19N Engl J Med. 2022;386(15):1397-1408. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2118542

  4. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: FDA authorizes pharmacists to prescribe Paxlovid with certain limitations.

  5. Tanne JH. COVID-19: FDA authorises pharmacists to prescribe PaxlovidBMJ. Published online July 8, 2022:o1695. doi:10.1136/bmj.o1695

By Korin Miller
Korin Miller is a health and lifestyle journalist who has been published in The Washington Post, Prevention, SELF, Women's Health, The Bump, and Yahoo, among other outlets.