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Biden doubling purchase of Pfizer COVID-19 pills, US order up to 20 million

During his remarks Tuesday, President Biden also encouraged everyone to wear masks while in public amid the current surge in COVID-19 cases.

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration plans to double the U.S. government's order for Pfizer's antiviral COVID-19 pill, with the new order set up for 20 million treatment courses. 

The updated purchase was first reported by Fox News and later confirmed by the Wall Street Journal. 

President Joe Biden made the announcement ahead of a meeting with the White House COVID-19 task force Tuesday afternoon to get an update on the omicron variant's impact on the U.S. 

During his brief remarks, Biden once again urged all Americans to get vaccinated and to get booster shots. He also encouraged everyone to wear masks while in public to protect others amid the current surge in cases.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last month granted emergency authorization for Pfizer's antiviral tablets — called Paxlovid-nirmatrelvir  —and ritonavir tablets as a dual-medicine oral antiviral treatment for COVID. 

The two tablets, which were authorized to help people suffering from mild and initial COVID symptoms, were the first approved oral treatment. 

In November, before they were formally approved, the Biden administration said it would commit to securing 10 million treatment courses once they passed the FDA's screening process. The administration paid around $5.3 billion for the first 10 million courses. 

It's unclear how much the additional treatment courses will cost, or if the expedited procurement process will drive up the price. 

The move comes as the omicron variant is growing even more rapidly than the delta variant, infecting people at a previously unseen rate. The new variant appears to be more contagious and current vaccines seem less effective in preventing its spread. 

Credit: AP
President Joe Biden removes his mask as he arrives with Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and chief medical adviser to the president, for a meeting with the White House COVID-19 Response Team on the latest developments related to the Omicron variant in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House Campus in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

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