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Pfizer to begin late-stage trial of COVID treatment pill

Pfizer said it is now testing a pill that could help people ward off COVID-19 if a close contact, such as family member, gets the virus.

TAMPA, Fla. — While the push to get more Americans vaccinated continues, more trials are underway for new forms of COVID-19 treatment.

Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, is in a late-stage trial, testing a COVID-19 treatment pill for people that have had close contact with the virus.

The drug manufacturer said it is looking at the efficacy of the pill as used in combination with a low dose of the HIV drug ritonavir in people who are at least 18 years old and live in the same household with someone who has COVID-19.

Pfizer plans to enroll 2,660 people 18 and older in the late-stage study. Those participating will get either the treatment combination or a fake drug orally twice a day for five to 10 days.

RELATED: Pfizer submits initial data to FDA on COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11

"The more options we have, to prevent and treat COVID, the better," said Dr. Lee Savio Beers, the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Beers said pediatricians are used to treating patients who are afraid of shots. Pediatricians make sure to give kids extra patience and encouragement when it's time for immunizations. While fear of needles is less common in adults, for some, it's why they aren't vaccinated. 

"I have a lot of friends and family members that are my age and older than me that are extremely afraid of needles," said Annie Fuller of Largo. "If they were to not have that-- that fear anymore, I think they'd be a lot less opposed to getting preventative measures."

Fuller has hypothyroidism. It weakens her immune system and makes her more prone to severe illness. Fuller is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Seeing there could be a potential option that doesn't involve needles has her excited for the people in her life who have trypanophobia. And for herself, Fuller said she would take the pill if it receives FDA approval or emergency use authorization. 

"Absolutely," said Fuller. "Being someone who is extremely immunocompromised, that would-- that would help a lot."

The COVID-19 treatment pill will include the use of an HIV drug. Pfizer claims it could potentially be prescribed at the first sign of infection, without requiring a patient to be hospitalized or in critical care. 

Dr. Beers said she will wait on more data before passing judgment. 

"I think it's a little too early to tell and just like everything, we will continue to follow the data," said Beer. 

Pfizer's trial is one of three manufacturers testing pills to treat COVID-19. Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics and Roche and Atea Pharmaceuticals are also conducting their own trials with pills.